BERNE (Reuters) - Volleyball’s governing body (FIVB) has called for the release of an imprisoned Iranian-British woman who took part in a demonstration at a match in Tehran against a ban on females attending some men’s sporting events.
Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was sentenced to a year in jail on Nov. 2 for spreading anti-state propaganda, Iranian media said, after being arrested for demanding that women be allowed to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy in June.
“The FIVB has called for the release of Ghoncheh Ghavami and has written a letter to the President of Iran, His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, to this effect,” said the Lausanne-based FIVB in a statement sent to Reuters.
“The FIVB has been working, and continues to work, with the Iranian Volleyball Federation and other authorities in Iran to try to secure Ghoncheh Ghavami’s release.
“The FIVB does not normally seek to interfere with laws and cultures of any nation; however this sensitive incident merits particular attention,” it added.
“Therefore, the FIVB’s efforts in this area are on-going in order to find a solution without putting the athletes and the fans of volleyball in the country at a disadvantage.”
The FIVB, however, denied reports that Iran had been stripped of the right to host the world under-19 championship over the incident.
“The FIVB will soon be announcing the host nations for a range of junior international volleyball events including the under-19 World Volleyball Championships next year,” it said.
“At no time was Iran promised or told that it would be hosting this event and therefore it is inaccurate to say that this championship has been taken away from Iran.
“The decision to appoint the respective host nations for these junior championships has been taken entirely on technical merit.”
It added: “The FIVB has not intervened with the Asian Volleyball Confederation’s (AVC) decision to award Tehran the Asian Championships in 2015.
“The FIVB continues to work with all relevant organisations for the release of Ghoncheh Ghavami and secure a change in Iranian policy to ensure inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sport on an equal basis.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Sam Holden/Rex Gowar