Much of the world of sports remained transfixed on Super Bowl 50 in the first week of February. Dozens of advertisements came out before and during the main event as news websites got busy ranking the worst and best spots aired this year.
Amid the media frenzy, unfortunately, a very important sports commercial released by the United Nations went overlooked.
For people who don’t know the background of the video, women in Iran are (legally) prohibited from volleyball matches — as well as soccer stadiums, for that matter.
Although the ban violates the International Volleyball Federation’s principle of gender non-discrimination and human rights groups have condemned it for years, the FIVB let Iran host two volleyball tournaments this year: the Kish Island FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour (Feb. 15-19) and World League matches due in June in Tehran.
Women who have tried to resist against the discriminatory law were punished. For instance, in 2014, Iranian authorities arrested Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian law graduate, at a Tehran stadium as she tried to attend a men's volleyball along with a group of other women.
All of them were released but Ghawami was rearrested later and put on trial for “spreading anti-regime propaganda.” After she was found guilty, the then 26-year-old was held in the city's notorious Evin Prison in isolation cells.
Advocates for Iranian women’s rights are using the hashtag #Watch4Women, calling on FIVB to pressure the Iranian government to revoke the ban.
The efforts worked to the extent where women will reportedly not be turned away from the gates of the Kish Island tournament; however, their safety remains a major concern.
"The FIVB should have concentrated its efforts on getting the ban overturned. The fact you have a one-off match where women can attend, they have to show their faces... women are taking all the risk — that's not fair and that's not fun for them. They will be exposing themselves by sitting in the stands,” Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch's director of global initiatives, told the IBTimes UK.
Meanwhile, the ban is still in place.