Iran: Women At Sports Events A Victory, But 'Not Enough'
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has ordered authorities to allow women to enter
sports stadiums and attend national football games. Conservatives have deemed it
un-Islamic for women to attend men's sporting events, and a ban has been in
place since the establishment of the Islamic republic in 1979. But in a letter
to the head of Iran's Physical Education Organization, Ahmadinejad wrote that
women and families help bring "morality" and "chastity" to public venues. RFE/RL
correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari talked on April 24 with a prominent women's
rights activist, Mahboubeh Abbass-Gholizadeh, about the reversal. She calls the
decision the result of pressure by activists.
and many other women in Iran have been fighting for the right to enter stadiums
and attend football matches. Your leg was actually broken last year when you and
a group of activists tried to push your way into Tehran stadium. How do you feel
today, now that President Ahmadinejad has ordered that women be allowed into
Abbass-Gholizadeh: Our reaction -- the reaction of many of those
who have been involved in this campaign, and we've been talking about it -- is
first of all [happiness]. We are all happy that the women's movement could
successfully reach [at least] one of its least important demands. We consider
this a victory for the women's movement. But this is happening at a time when
there are many pressures with regard to [restrictions on] women's clothing. This
achievement is for us a result of the efforts of our women and girls, especially
since last year. It was necessary, but [it is] not enough.
RFE/RL: What are your other demands?
Abbass-Gholizadeh: Women should have access to all public
places, and their rights should be [defended]. Under the current conditions --
in which a woman who wants to travel needs her husband's permission, in which
academic places, universities, scientific locations, and recreational places
like coffee shops are segregated -- women or young girls cannot easily gain
access to public places. And this segregation shows that we cannot say that
women and men use public places equally. Some places in Iran are generally
designated "For Men Only." On the other hand, the emphasis that exists on
women's clothing -- especially in recent days -- it all indicates cat-and-mouse
policies with regard to women's demands. And we have many other demands -- from
the right to [less strict limits on] clothing to the right of access to all
RFE/RL: Does this small victory
make you and other activists more determined and more active in seeking your
demands and achieving equal rights?
This is an achievement by the women's movement -- and not because the
president is a democrat and, for example, gives importance to women's rights.
The activities of women have made this possible. Our argument is not only
limited to women entering stadiums, but we believe that women have the right to
access public places that under the Islamic republic have become places solely
for men. These are only our first steps. Our strategy is to achieve equal rights
for all Iranian women.
RFE/RL: Do you know when
President Ahmadinejad's order will be applied and women will be allowed to
attend sports events?
Abbass-Gholizadeh: I think
it will be applied during the first game that comes after [the issuing of] this
RFE/RL: And will you attend it, you and
all of us are planning to go and watch the game and demonstrate [our victory].
Before Mr. President issued this order, we were planning on creating some
solidarity among Iranian women who live abroad -- especially because of the
[FIFA] World Cup that will be held in Germany [in June-July]. We were busy
working on a campaign so that Iranian women outside the country would represent
women who are inside Iran and attend football matches in stadiums and chant
slogans and have placards denouncing the violation of Iranian women's right to
attend stadiums. But it appears that -- before people outside Iran could hear
about the campaign -- the president was informed and issued this
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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