A volley of protest in Iran

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has thrown its weight behind a challenge to Iran’s ban on women watching volleyball matches.

Iranian women have been banned from attending live sporting events since the 1979 revolution, which declared it ‘un-Islamic’. But in 2012, the ban was extended to volleyball – the nation’s most popular sport.

Since then, men and women can no longer watch even televised matches in public areas together, and attempting to do so can lead to arrests.

The #Watch4Women campaign is leaning on the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to penalize Iran for its discriminatory law.

Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at HRW, says that if women cannot attend matches, Iran should not be allowed to host international games. The Iranian Volleyball Federation hosted six international matches in 2015, from which women and girls were excluded as spectators – a policy that goes against women’s rights, the FIVB’s own constitution and the Olympic Charter.

‘Cheering for your team is a basic human right,’ Darya Safai, a spokesperson for the group Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums, told Swedish news agency TT.

For her, the volleyball campaign is a way to tackle the wider issue of gender discrimination in Iran.