A 25-year-old British graduate arrested in Iran for attending a men’s volleyball match has been sentenced to one year behind bars for alleged “propaganda against the regime.”
Due to Iran’s strict Islamic laws, women are forbidden from mixing with men in just about all public arenas, including sporting events. So when Ghoncheh Ghavami showed up at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran to watch a volleyball game, she was promptly barred from entering the arena before being arrested.
Ghavami was initially released by the police a week after her arrest, but was then detained again by authorities when they discovered she had a British passport and dual British-Iranian citizenship. As soon as her dual citizenship was revealed, she was reportedly thrown into solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin political prison for a number of weeks.
According to Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, “This is an appalling verdict. It’s an outrage that a young woman is being locked up simply for peacefully having her say about how women are discriminated against in Iran. Ghoncheh is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities should quash the sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally. The authorities should also investigate allegations that Ghoncheh was subjected to death threats by her interrogators and provide compensation for her arbitrary detention and her prolonged solitary confinement.”
Amnesty also confirmed that the charges against Ghavami did not amount to an internationally-recognizable criminal offense, and that she has been jailed solely for her peaceful activities to end discrimination against women since she works as a women’s rights activist.
By way of protest for her imprisonment, Ghavami carried out a two week hunger strike, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on the prison authorities.
Ghoncheh’s mother, British-born Susan Ghavami, wrote to her daughter’s supporters on Facebook, posting, “Before the commencement, when they brought Ghoncheh, I laid a kiss on her beautiful face and gave her as much comfort as I could in that brief time.All of us gathered together for 20 minutes, [the] first time in hundred something days.”
Ghoncheh’s Brother, Mr. Ghavami from Shepherds Bush in London, told reporters that his sister thought women were allowed to attend international volleyball matches and has called her arrest “a truly tragic misunderstanding.”