Going to a volleyball game in Iran can land you in jail, if you’re a woman

On Monday, Iranian-British activist Ghoncheh Ghavami was sentenced to a year in prison for attempting to watch a volleyball game in Tehran — an activity now illegal in Iran. Ghavami, a 25-year-old London law graduate, was found guilty of leading “propaganda against the regime,” The Guardian reports. The fallout has been international outcry, a Change.org petition with nearly one million signatures, and the front page realization of just how much further women’s rights around the world have yet to go.

According to the Change.org petition written by Ghavami’s brother she has been in solitary confinement since June for doing nothing more than attempting to attend a men’s volleyball game in Tehran at Azadi stadium. Ghavami had been protesting new laws that barred women in Iran from attending men’s volleyball matches and was arrested at a protest against the laws outside of the stadium. As of her sentencing, Ghavami is now on a hunger strike in protest.

British officials, as well as human rights organizations, have rallied support for Ghavami and called for her release. “It’s an outrage that a young woman is being locked up simply for peacefully having her say about how women are discriminated against in Iran,” Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, told The Associated Press.

It’s not the first time that female sports fans have caused turmoil in the country this year. During the World Cup, Iranian officials attempted to bar female sports fans from sports bars or cheering the football team in public. The idea is that mixed-gender sports watching is a force of immorality.

Many Iranian women protested by finding ways to buy tickets to the games anyway, and sitting in sports bars among men. Ghavami’s story is both deeply troubling and firmly empowering. Empowering that women all around the world are fighting for equal rights, and troubling that they still have to.

[Image via: The Times]