Iran government backtracks on decision to allow women to watch volleyball over vigilante 'threats'

Iran's vice president wrote on Facebook that the 'sanctimonious people' were the reason that women had been banned from the event

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The Independent Online

Iranian activists have reacted angrily after women were barred from watching a volleyball game against the US, despite previous indications they would be allowed.

Although reports said that Iran’s sporting federation would permit a limited number of women to the game on Friday, pressure from hard-line conservatives appears to have resulted in a backtrack.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, the vice president of Iran, had said that women, mainly members of the players’ families, would be allowed to attend before being contradicted by security officials.

Ghoncheh Ghavami was detained while trying to attend a men’s volleyball game

Restrictions had been eased in recent months after Hassan Rouhani’s moderate government appeared willing to listen to complaints from female activists.

But earlier this week a statement from Ansar-e Hezbollah, a religious vigilante group in Iran, said that “we are taking a stand against the presence of prostitutes… in stadiums,” in a flyer distributed around Tehran. “This Friday there will be blood,” it added.

Ms Molaverdi has since hit out at the restrictions, writing on Facebook that although the government had respected the views of religious leaders, it had attempted to respond to “the legal demands of another section of society”.

She added: “[A] crowd of sanctimonious people who published one notice after another denouncing the modest and decent girls and women of this land who talked of confrontation used obscene and disgusting insults that only befit themselves," referencing the demands of conservative groups in the lead up to the match.

Senior Islamic clerics and officials denounced the proposals to lift restrictions on women attending sporting events. "We didn't rise up in an Islamic Revolution for the right of women to enter sports stadiums," said Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Alavi Gorgani.