Iran restricts women's tickets at international volleyball
Iranian women were allowed only 200 of 12,000 seats in the Azadi sports complex in Tehran on the first day of the three-day International Volleyball Federation's 2015 World League, according to local media reports.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch urged Iranian authorities to lift the ban or restrictions on women planning to attend the men's volleyball matches being held between 19 and 21 June.
"We hope that the government will allow Iranian women to cheer for their national team alongside their male counterparts," said Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at HRW.
"By letting women attend the event, Iran would show international sporting bodies that the country can commit to fair play both on and off the field."
The last-minute entry restrictions come despite assurances from Iran to the vollyball federation that women would be allowed to attend the matches.
"The FIVB has been informed that there is no change to Iran’s previous decision to ease its ban on women attending sporting events," a federation spokesperson told the Guardian on Tuesday, adding that the federation would continue to monitor the situation.
"The FIVB remains totally committed to ensuring inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sport on an equal basis all around the world."
It is not the first time Iranian authorities have imposed restrictions on women attending international men's sports matches; the ban has been maintained since the 1980s, which HRW described as a "contravention of the principle of gender non-discrimination in sports".
In June 2014, Iranian women were banned from attending an international men's volleyball match, while women of other nationalities were allowed to enter the stadium.
In response, Iranian women protested outside the sports venue, before the authorities arrested 25-year old British-Iranian woman Ghoncheh Ghavami, along with several other women.
Ghavami was released on bail for health reasons in November 2014, after serving five months out of a one-year sentence in prison. However, she remains under a two-year travel ban.