Iran's jailing of Ghoncheh Ghavami for volleyball protest is 'appalling'

Ghoncheh Ghavami © Private

‘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

Responding to reports that the British “volleyball protester” Ghoncheh Ghavami has been jailed for a year for “spreading propaganda against the system” by a court in Iran today, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'This is an appalling verdict.

'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.

'Ghoncheh is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities should quash the sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

'The authorities should also investigate allegations that Ghoncheh was subjected to death threats by her interrogators and provide compensation for her arbitrary detention and her prolonged solitary confinement.'

Ghavami, a 25-year-old joint UK-Iranian national and graduate of London University’s SOAS, was arrested in June after taking part in a peaceful protest against a ban on women in Iran attending sporting events in the company of men in public stadiums. The protest occurred outside the Azadi Stadium in Tehran where an Iran-Italy Volleyball World League match was taking place. According to activists and journalists who were present, the police used excessive force including beatings to disperse the protesters, and arrested several of them, including Ghavami.

Along with others Ghavami was originally released but re-arrested ten days later and then held in solitary confinement without access to her lawyer for several weeks. During this time interrogators are said to have put Ghavami under severe psychological pressure, threatening to move her to Gharchak Prison in Tehran Province where prisoners convicted of serious criminal offences are held in dismal conditions. Interrogators reportedly warned she 'would not walk out of prison alive'.

On 20 September, Ghavami’s family were informed that the Office of the Prosecutor in Tehran had referred her case to Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on the basis that she had “spread propaganda against the system”. Amnesty insists that the charge against Ghavami did not amount to an internationally-recognisable criminal offence and that she has been jailed solely for her peaceful activities to end discrimination against women.

Over 35,000 people have supported an Amnesty campaign calling for Ghoncheh Ghavami’s immediate release.

The ban on women spectators

Iran has imposed a ban on women watching football matches in stadiums since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. In 2012, the Security Department of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs extended this ban to volleyball matches. Iranian officials have frequently claimed that the mixing of women and men in sport stadiums is not in the public interest and the discriminatory ban on Iranian women is for their own benefit as they need “protection” from the lewd behaviour of male fans.

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