Darya Safai pleads with security personnel as they threaten to remove her from an Olympics volleyball match for holding up a sign protesting the fact that women are not allowed to attend volleyball matches in Iran, during a men’s preliminary volleyball match between Egypt and Iran at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro earlier today (AP)
RISKING RETRIBUTION AGAINST HERSELF AND HER FAMILY
[Note by Tom Gross]
My brave friend Darya Safai again risked retribution from Rouhani's Iranian regime after she held up a sign at the Rio Olympics Iranian volleyball match asking that women be permitted to attend matches in Iran.
Darya has been forced to live in exile from what New York Times and BBC journalists and the Obama administration insist on calling the newly “moderate” Iran.
Darya lives in Belgium where she works as a dentist. (I have known her for some time and she is a recipient of these Mideast dispatches.)
Her request that women be allowed to attend sports events seems to me less political and more in line with basic human rights and the Olympic spirit.
There’s an excellent full length feature film about this issue, called “Offside,” by Jafar Panahi (who has been under house arrest in Iran since 2009). It can be watched here with English subtitles:
* For a previous dispatch on the Rio Olympics:
TEHRAN HANGS TEENAGE BOY FOR BEING GAY
See also from last week’s Times of London:
Tehran hangs teenage boy for being gay
By Bel Trew
August 4 2016
Hassan Afshar, 19, was executed at Arak’s prison in Markazi province, southwest of Tehran, on July 18, Amnesty International has confirmed and Reuters reports from Teheran
“LET IRANIAN WOMEN ENTER THEIR STADIUMS”
Olympic security asks female Iranian fan to drop sign
By Janie McCauley
The Associated Press
August 13, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Olympic security personnel questioned a female Iranian volleyball fan when she showed up for a match holding a large sign and wearing a T-shirt that said “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums.”
Darya Safai, who sat in a front-row courtside seat and was briefly in tears during the ordeal, said that Olympic officials told her Saturday they would ask her to leave if she didn’t put her sign away. The International Olympic Committee bans political statements at the games.
Safai plans to try to bring her cause to Maracanazinho arena again. She wore a headband with the colors of Iran’s flag and also face paint of the flag on each cheek.
“For the next game on Monday we also have tickets and we are going to do the same,” she wrote in a text message to The Associated Press.
Based in Belgium, Safai is the founder and director of “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums!” and an activist against gender discrimination. Women have generally been banned or heavily restricted from attending all-male sports events in Iran.
Iran’s volleyball team, in its first Olympics, swept Egypt in the match 3-0 for its second victory in Rio.
In 2012, the longtime ban on women from soccer matches in Iran was extended to volleyball. Women have for years been trying to change the long-standing efforts by authorities to enforce strict interpretations of Islamic norms.
USA Volleyball chairwoman Lori Okimura has been outspoken on the issue — she even brought her own “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums” T-shirt along to Brazil — and checked in with Safai on Saturday to make sure she was OK.
“This is not a political statement. This is not a political issue,” Okimura said. “This, to me, is not about politics, it’s about gender. Volleyball has always been about equality, why now are we not sending that same consistent message?”
Women in Iran saw her efforts on TV and appreciated the solidarity, taking to social media in support of Safai.
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