Iranian Women Were Still Not Allowed to Watch Volleyball Today

It looked like Iranian women were finally going to have the chance to watch their national volleyball team play at the Kish Island Open Tuesday, after years of being prohibited from watching the sport. Many human rights groups were advocating for the event to be open to women, according to Refinery29. However, the Associated Press reported Tuesday that women were not allowed into the event due to "misunderstandings" and "cultural issues."

Rules limiting Iranian women’s access to stadiums have been enacted since Iran’s 1979 revolution, but the ban extended to volleyball matches in 2012. Since then, Iranian women have been arrested for attending volleyball matches, despite the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball’s (FIVB) clear anti-discrimination policy.

But organizers were working to change that.

“The FIVB has been working tirelessly with the relevant authorities to ensure the Kish Island Open is accessible to all and the necessary steps have been taken to achieve this,” Richard Baker, the FIVB Press Department Director, told Refinery29 last week. “The FIVB is committed to becoming the world’s number one family sport entertainment; our events are enjoyed by fans of all ages and gender and we are grateful for the support of the relevant Iranian authorities in helping us to achieve this at the Kish Island Open.”

Human Rights Watch’s #Watch4Women campaign and @OpenStadiums also played a vital role in advocating for these womens' rights.

“Iran's national volleyball team has become one of the world's best, and the sport has spiked in popularity in the country,” Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch wrote in a statement. “The upcoming men's beach volleyball tournament could be a celebratory occasion not just on the volleyball courts but also for equality in Iran — if authorities reverse the discriminatory ban keeping women out of matches.”

Richard Baker, an FIVB spokesman, told the AP that "there have been misunderstandings throughout the day, and we have had to seek clarification." Women were apparently allowed to watch the game from a café that had a view of the court.