It was a picture for the history books. Sajedeh Norouzi, a 27 years old Iranian woman, frantically waving and cheering for her countrymen playing on the volleyball courts of Rio Olympics 2016. To an ordinary pair of eyes, this might not seem even odd, but Norouzi is doing something no other woman in her country can do, since women in Iran are prohibited from attending all-male sports events.
But Norouzi made a clear statement about her thoughts on that. She claimed to be speaking for all women back home when she said that all women in Iran want to go to the stadium and attend men’s games.
“I want to cheer for my team!” were the words by the overwhelmed woman on her first time in a stadium. Her energy and passion was distinctly visible as she kept waving a small Iranian flag, not to be discouraged by the fact that Iran lost in straight sets.
The match that saw Iran making its debut in the Olympics started at 6am Tehran time, and the 23 hour flight costing a whopping 2500USD trip to the stadiums is not easy for the average Iranian.
Norouzi and her husband Saeed Jaydaniyan attended the game against Argentina in Maracanazinho arena. They were already in Copacabana, Brazil for four months prior to this for academic purposes.
A group called Open Stadiums are pushing for women’s access in the sports arenas. They are advocating to end discrimination against women. A spokeswoman from the group, a 32-year-old Iranian, who chooses to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, strongly supported Norouzi’s statement about women wanting to be on the stadium and watch a live game again in a statement provided to The Associated Press on Sunday.
In a blatant disrespect to women’s right, the existing ban on women attending football matches were extended to include volleyball in 2012, which was labelled as ‘ridiculous’ by Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State. This ban is supposedly imposed by the authorities to enforce strict Islamic law.
A group of Iranian women attempted to buy tickets in last month’s World League tournament, which took place at Tehran’s Azadi Sports Complex. Although Iranian federation claimed that 466 out of 5000 tickets were reserved for females, and livestream indeed showed females attending, their number seemed far less than 466 and women who attempted to buy tickets online were informed that female allotment was already filled as soon as tickets were released.
For now, women of Iran are hopeful that one day, Norouzi will not just be an exceptional case, but the pioneer of a regular norm of their society.