Iranian women, who held a protest sign at an Olympic stadium, were asked by officials to stop what they were doing, or they would be escorted out by military personnel.
The incident took place last week at the Maracanazinho Arena during the men’s preliminary volleyball match between Egypt and Iran. The protest was led by an Iranian woman by the name of Darya Safai, who is the founder of “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums.”
Safai, who currently resides in Belgium, carried a giant banner that read “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums,” and wore a t-shirt with the same message. The other protesters sported the same shirts and waved Iranian flags.
The activist cried as Brazilian officers made their request to her and to the other women, who were fighting for all the females of their country. She obliged and told reporters after the match that she wept “because it hurts,” and added:
“They said they didn’t want the sign in front of the cameras, and they asked us to leave. They even tried to impress me with military people. I think it is a pity they always listen to what the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran says.”
The protester also spoke more about her cause. She revealed that in 2012, the Iranian government decided to extend the existing ban on women from soccer matches in Iran to volleyball. Iranian women have been trying for years to change the law in vain.
In 2014, a female protester, who was arrested at a men’s volleyball match, was imprisoned for five months. USA Volleyball chairwoman Lori Okimura, who is a supporter of the cause, said:
“This is not a political statement. This is not a political issue. 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 Safai’s efforts on TV and rushed to social media to thank her. She added:
“The Olympic Spirit, which is against discrimination, is what Iranian women need in their country.It should be the right of everyone, men and women, to attend a sports game. It is a pity that women have to travel to Brazil to watch and cheer for their national team.”
On Monday, Safai and other protesters will be at Maracanazinho Arena again with a banner and an Iranian flag to draw attention to the issue. She said:
“For the next game on Monday we also have tickets, and we are going to do the same.”
It will be interesting to see if this kind of movement will have an impact on the Iranian government.