Equal rights

Iranian woman refuses to leave stadium after security tries to kick her out over sign she was holding

Darya Safai holds a banner reading "Let Iranian women enter their stadiums" at the Rio Olympics. (REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)

An activist who demonstrated at the Rio Olympics for Iranian women to be allowed to spectate all-male sporting events was asked to leave by security staff. Darya Safai, 35, held up a large banner at Maracanazinho arena that read, “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums,” at the men’s preliminary volleyball match between Egypt and Iran on Saturday.

The International Olympic Committee bans political statements at the games, but security staff members were unsuccessful in attempting to remove Safai, who was briefly in tears but continued to hold the sign up for the remainder of the event. She said she cried because “it hurts to explain again and again that this peaceful action is not a political message, but a positive message of peace and human rights.”

Safai — who was born in Iran but resides in Belgium — said she plans to attend all of Iran’s volleyball matches. In 2012, a longtime ban on women attending soccer matches in Iran was extended to volleyball.

She said her protest is “to let the Olympic committee know that they have an important mission to let Iranian women enter the stadiums.”

“They have a lot of power in the world of sports and I hope they will use it to fight gender discrimination. That’s what the spirit of the Olympic Games is,” she said.

Read the full story at the BBC and The Associated Press.

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