It seems that exclusion from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games now threatens not only Russia and Belarus, but also Iran. A group of activists demanded that the country not be allowed to participate in the Games due to violations of the Olympic Charter, and more specifically, due to discrimination against women in sport. Is this really a good idea?
A group of activists led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and former WBA world champion Mahyar Monshipour appealed to the International Olympic Committee in July 2023 with the demand to withdraw Iran from the 2024 Olympic Games. The reason is gender discrimination in the country and non-compliance with the Olympic Charter.
The authors of the letter maintain that in Iran women cannot freely practice sports, although it is a human right. In their appeal to the IOC, activists draw a parallel with the exclusion of South Africa due to apartheid policies in the 1970s. They demand a similar punishment for Iran or a compromise solution in the form of a ban on competing in those sports in which Iranian women are prohibited from competing: boxing, some types of martial arts, swimming, sailing, volleyball, gymnastics and others.
An Iranian judoka refused to take off her hijab. She was not allowed to enter the fight and was given a medal.
As the authors of the letter point out, women in Iran are tired of playing underground sports and dream of competing in unrestricted competitions.
Lawyer Frédéric Thirieux stated that the activists are preparing a petition and an official appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The IOC has already responded to the letter from Ebadi and Manshipur. Thirie said activists received a response: “Rest assured, we are closely monitoring the situation in Iran.” There have been no other actions and there probably won’t be.
Isn’t sport for women?
Iran has a really complicated history with women’s rights.
For a year now, unrest has not subsided in the country due to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Last September, the “morality police” detained a girl on the street. Amini died during arrest. According to activists, this was due to blows to the head by the police. Law enforcement denied this information. As a show of solidarity with Amini, Iranian women began burning hijabs and cutting their hair, and also went out to protests.
At the height of the protests, Elnaz Rekabi, Iran’s top climber, bravely supported the action in her own way. At the Asian Championships, breaking the country’s rules, she performed without a hijab. Upon returning to her homeland, she disappeared for a couple of days and then made a strange appeal and apologized.
What then happened to the protesting Rekabi?
A champion from Iran dared to perform without a hijab and disappeared. She looks like they put her in jail
Now in Iran there are strict restrictions for female athletes. Under laws dating back to 1979, women are prohibited from competing in Olympic events in which a male judge would have physical contact with them, and female athletes are prohibited from competing without wearing a hijab. For many years, Iranians were even prohibited from watching various competitions in stadiums. Only in June of this year were women allowed to attend some football matches in certain stadiums.
Although de jure this is not enshrined, due to the attitude of society and politicians, Iranian girls are prohibited from practicing, for example, swimming, cycling, various types of martial arts and surfing.
Additionally, any athlete or team member must obtain permission from their husband before leaving for an international competition in another country. Sometimes it is strange: there was a case where the coach of the women’s national alpine skiing team, Samira Zargari, was not allowed to attend the 2013 World Championships because she did not receive permission from her husband.
Should Iran be eliminated for this reason?
The situation is extremely ambiguous.
Yes, Iran’s actions directly violate the Olympic Charter, which states that “there shall be no discrimination of any kind, in particular on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national level or social”. origin, economic situation, birth or other condition.”
Restrictions on women are gender discrimination that must be fought. And even the cultural context here cannot justify the government’s policies. It is quite possible to ensure that swimmers compete in competitions, even in one-piece swimsuits, or that athletes wear hijab only if they themselves wish to do so.
But the suspension does not guarantee that Iran will stop restricting women’s rights in sports. Even the most severe ban only draws attention to the problem, but does not solve it. The practice of disqualifying South Africa in the 1970s clearly demonstrates this, because then the sanctions became simply an exemplary flogging.
Furthermore, any exclusion of an entire country from the competition is a political decision. And although sport has not been out of politics for a long time, I do not want to continue this controversial and complex trend.
The fact is that not only Iran has similar problems with women’s sports. For example, in Afghanistan, the Taliban (recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia) generally prohibited women from participating in any sports. It turns out that if Iran is banned from participating in the Olympic Games, it will be necessary to subsequently ban Afghanistan and all other countries where there are problems with women’s sports? But then we will not see several countries from Africa and the Middle East in international tournaments.
Athletes died strangely in Afghanistan:
“The boyfriend claims it’s suicide.” The crazy story of the death of a volleyball player in Afghanistan
It is difficult to say unequivocally whether Iran should be eliminated or not.
In this case, the most effective is the activists’ proposal to ban sports in which there are no women. In the same martial arts, Iran is one of the leaders, so the loss will be notable. In theory, disqualification should force the authorities to think about the development of women’s sports, but in practice this is unlikely to happen. So in the current situation, activists and the IOC must look for other ways to influence Iran and other countries to save female athletes from discrimination.