Iran bars women ticket holders entry to volleyball match

TEHRAN - Iranian authorities denied women ticket holders entry to Friday's volleyball match between Iran and the United States despite their having the necessary permission, the sport's association said.

The Iranian Volleyball Federation had provided special accreditation to 200 women handpicked to attend the men's Volleyball World League match in Tehran.

The tickets were reserved for "family members of players, supporters of the visiting team and executive officials," said Reza Hassanikhou, head of security at the sports ministry.

But a federation official told AFP the accreditations had not been validated by security services at the arena, meaning the women were barred from entering.

Rules prohibiting women's access to stadiums have been in place since Iran's 1979 revolution, officially to protect them from obscene behaviour among male fans.

President Hassan Rouhani's government, despite opposition from religious conservatives, has been trying to relax the restrictions. Recently, some women watched a male basketball match from a cordoned-off section of a venue in Tehran.

Mohammad Reza Davarzani, president of Iran's volleyball federation, said Friday's tickets were not honoured "because of protests," about which he did not elaborate.

"We hope that this will be resolved in future," he told AFP.

An AFP photographer at the game, which Iran won 3 sets to 1, some women were present inside the arena, including female referees.

In April 2014, Rouhani admitted there were "deficiencies in women's rights and in gender equality," urging acknowledgement that "women stand alongside men and the two are equal."

But the government's moves toward reform have hit barriers, highlighting a split between conservatives anxious to preserve Islamic traditions and others in Iran who want greater openness.

In November, the international volleyball federation FIVB said it would not allow Iran to host international events as long as women are banned from attending games.

The announcement followed the jailing of British-Iranian Goncheh Ghavami, who was arrested after trying to attend a volleyball match last year.

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