A Human Right

Associated Press today reported about an incident at the volleyball arena, where an Iranian spectator was allegedly asked to leave the stadium for displaying a sign and wearing a t-shirt with a ‘political statement’. OK, I thought at first, those are the rules… Until I found out what the statement was…

The shirt read ‘Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums’.

There is a law in Iran against women attending football matches and other sports events, in recent years even extended to sports like volleyball. Women who attempt to get into the arenas or protest against the ban are being arrested and prosecuted.

According to the report, the spectator, an Iranian woman, was questioned by security and found to be ‘in breach of IOC regulations’, prohibiting political messages being shown at sporting events. ‘They said they didn’t want the sign in front of the cameras and they asked us to leave’, she told Associated Press.

I haven’t heard or read any reaction by the IOC so far, so I could say let’s wait for them. They’re going to find the right response. Well, judging from experience, I don’t think they will… And I don’t have to wait…

Dear IOC, the statement ‘Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums’ is NOT a political statement! It merely asks for the inclusion of women in Iranian sports, which is nothing less than a basic human right. You don’t believe that? You’re still saying ‘oh, but we cannot interfere with their internal matters’?

I’ve said this before, when discussing the Doping issues and I’m saying it again now:

Read your own Charter!

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Preamble to the Olympic Charter

Ah, now I can hear your legal experts again, trying to turn every letter to find a loophole and interpret this fundamental rule of the Olympic Movement the way you like it. Found one? Oh, of course, the rule talks about ‘practising sport’. Being a spectator is not really like practising sport, is it?

No, of course not. It’s not the same. But it is part of it. All people have the right to be involved in sport in any way they wish, either by actively practising it or by watching it. Being able to watch the sport you like is such an important factor. It gives you the possibility to be a part of it. The audience at a sports arena forms some kind of temporary community. During the event it doesn’t matter who you are, which social class you might belong to, not even where exactly you are seated or how much you paid for your ticket. As Thomas Bach himself pointed out during the Opening Ceremony in Rio: ‘In this Olympic world, we are all equal.’

And this is what the Iranian government and their authorities don’t want to have. They don’t want women to be equal, they can’t stand it, not even for 90 minutes inside a football stadium.

To protest against that at an Olympic arena is an act of bravery, a demand for the implementation of a human right, demanded by the Olympic Movement itself. It is not a political statement!

And may I add, to prohibit such positive signs of change but at the same time allow Iranian judoka to feign injuries so they won’t have to fight an Israeli opponent, or an Egyptian judoka to refuse the traditional bow and shaking hands with his opponent just because the latter happens to be an Israeli, is simply outrageous.

Before I’m getting too upset again, let me conclude with the final statement of that brave volleyball spectator from Iran:

I would and I will do it again.



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