Protesting Iran’s ban on women at volleyball games leads to jail term

An Iranian court sentenced Ghoncheh Ghavami to a year in jail for protesting a ban on women attending volleyball games. Above, Ghavami in London in 2012.

An Iranian court has sentenced a British-Iranian woman to a year in jail for protesting a ban on women attending volleyball games, according to her lawyer and the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was arrested outside Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in June while taking part in a demonstration against the ban, which was enacted in 2012, according to Amnesty International. The protest took place while Iran was playing Italy inside the stadium.

The volleyball ban joined an existing ban on women attending soccer games. The government says the laws are intended to protect women from exposure to unruly men at sporting events.

Ghavami’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told The Times that he was informally shown the verdict against his client but had not received official notification.


Amnesty International said Ghavami had been charged with “propaganda against the regime.”

According to the London-based organization, she was beaten during her arrest, and was eventually incarcerated at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. She reportedly went on a 14-day hunger strike in early October to protest the conditions of her detention.

Alizadeh told ILNA (the Iranian Labor News Agency) that he hoped the court would roll back its sentence. “There is hope to get clemency for my client as she had a clean record before getting arrested,” he said.

However, in an interview with The Times, he said that authorities have threatened to try Ghavami again on unspecified additional charges.

“They have not given concrete reasons, but they have announced to me the new accusations raised against Ghoncheh based on new evidence,” he said. He added that his client “has not been indicted and she was not given her new accusations [but] she will be retried.”

He added that he had never had an opportunity to meet with his client outside court.

“According to the court’s verdict, I, as the lawyer, can meet my client,” he said, “but due to unknown reasons, this visit has not happened yet and I have not met my client apart from the session in the court.”

Britain’s Foreign Office issued a statement raising objections to Ghavami’s treatment, the BBC reported.

“We have concerns about the grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial, and Miss Ghavami’s treatment whilst in custody,” the British statement said.

Mostaghim is a special correspondent.