Let Them Watch!

12670861_10203851422804916_2613145351769950460_nWhen people ask about sports in our family, I always tell them we’re a soccer family. And it’s true. Last Fall, for instance, every Saturday we had 3 kids playing on 3 different teams, and 3 of us were coaching 2 of those teams. And if that sentence confuses you, imagine living it, especially that one Saturday morning when all 3 games coincided…at 8am.

But the truth is that we are a sports family more broadly. And right now it’s volleyball season. Two of our kids are on teams at the moment, so the talk at our dinner table is about sideouts, platforms, sets and spikes.

And, clearly, the volleyball gene in our family comes from my wife. She the one that comes from a family of volleyball geniuses.

And, thankfully, they don’t hail from Iran. A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article, about a pending FIVB (that’s International Volleyball Federation) volleyball tournament being held on an island off the southern coast of Iran.

As the article makes clear, volleyball is big in Iran. Who knew?!? And the men’s team is one of the world’s best. Hence FIVB’s decision to award international tournaments to the country.

So what’s the rub?

Evidently, Tertullian plays outside hitter. Or, perhaps more to the point, Tertullian is running the Iranian sports ministry.

According to the article:

The upcoming men’s beach volleyball tournament could be a celebratory occasion not just on the volleyball courts but also for equality in Iran — if authorities reverse the discriminatory ban keeping women out of matches.

The irony is that volleyball was once an established public space for women, who could attend men’s matches in Iran until 2012, when the decision was made to ban them, without any clear explanation. Since then, gathering online and outside stadiums during the volleyball matches, Iranian women have tried to reverse this ban. Their efforts led to harassment and even arrest.

In 2014, Iranian authorities arrested Ghoncheh Ghavami and some 20 others when they sought to attend a Volleyball World League match at Tehran’s Azadi (“Freedom”) Stadium complex. They were released soon afterward, but Ghavami was rearrested and charged with “propaganda against the state.” She was held in the city’s notorious Evin Prison, including a stretch in solitary confinement, for nearly five months.

Crazy, right?

To sum up, if you happen to live in Iran and are a woman, you are not allowed to watch a volleyball match. And the penalty for doing so can be solitary confinement.

It turns out that FIVB’s own charter, along with the Olympic Constitution, prohibits discrimination of just this kind. And so the article ends with the following exhortation:

Now is the time for the FIVB to tell Iran watching volleyball is no crime for women, and insist on a formal overturning of the ban. The Kish Island Open should not be closed to women.

Here, here.

The above picture is of our daughter Lucy, serving at a recent tournament. Not pictured? Her mom and two sisters, watching from the stands behind her.

As it should be.

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