Dr. Saleh Bin Nasser

Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC)

P.O. Box 6130

100763 Beijing

China

 

RE: AVC’s selection of Iran as co-host of 2015 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championships

 

Dear Dr. Bin Nasser,

We write to urge the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) to revoke its selection of Iran as a co-host of the 2015 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championships while Iran continues to discriminate against women and girls by denying them access to volleyball matches, and to harass and/or prosecute women who peacefully protest such discrimination.

As you may be aware, the Iranian authorities do not permit Iranian women and girls to attend certain sporting events, including men’s volleyball matches, and they recently prosecuted and jailed Ghoncheh Ghavami, a dual Iranian-British national, after she peacefully protested against the government’s ban on women and girls attending an international men’s volleyball match in Tehran. Ghavami has since been released on bail, but not before a lower court convicted her of “propaganda against the state” and sentenced her to one year in prison. Her lawyers are appealing the decision, which includes a two year ban on travel.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has publicly expressed its concern about the imprisonment of Ghavami, called on the Iranian government to release her, and affirmed its commitment to “inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sport on an equal basis.” The Asian Volleyball Confederation’s (AVC) selection of Iran as a co-host of the 2015 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championships runs counter to the important stance adopted by the FIVB. We urge the AVC to review and revoke that selection forthwith and to make it clear to the Iranian authorities that the AVC will not countenance Iran holding international volleyball tournaments under AVC authority while Iran continues to discriminate against women and girls by denying them access to such events, and to harass and/or prosecute women who peacefully protest such discrimination.

As Human Rights Watch reported in a November 7 press release, Iran’s male-only policy for spectators at men’s volleyball matches in Iran dates to 2012, when the Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry extended the existing policy on soccer matches to cover volleyball. Iranian officials claim that mixed attendance at sports events is un-Islamic, threatens public order, and exposes women to crude behavior by male fans.

Human Rights Watch urged the FIVB in a September 29 letter to raise Ghavami’s case with the Iranian government and to ensure that “the FIVB will not, in the future, authorize games in venues where the entry policy or national laws violate the principle of non-discrimination on gender and other prohibited grounds.” The FIVB responded that it had sent a letter to President Hassan Rouhani urging him to reconsider the decision to keep Ghavami under arrest.

At the FIVB World Congress in Cagliari, Italy, on November 1, the day before the Asian Volleyball Confederation announced that it had selected Iran as a co-host of the 2015 Asian Championships, Dr. Ary S. Graça, the FIVB president, publicly called for the release of Ghavami and declared, “[W]omen throughout the world should be allowed to watch and participate in volleyball on an equal basis.” Previously, in an October 21 meeting with Human Rights Watch, the FIVB affirmed its commitment to inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sports, and said that Iran would not be able to host a world championship or any international event under the authority of the FIVB until the issue relating to the attendance of women and girls is resolved.

Human Rights Watch has called on organizers of international sporting events to include non-discrimination clauses in their host city contracts, following the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in September 2014 to include that requirement. The IOC has informed the finalists bidding for the 2022 Winter Games of this requirement. 

We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to receiving a response at your earliest convenience. If you have any queries or to submit a response please do not hesitate to contact my colleague Sarkis Balkhian at 202-612-4363 or balkhis@hrw.org.

 

Sincerely,

Minky Worden

Director of Global Initiatives

Human Rights Watch