#IndexAwards2018: Open Stadiums challenges Iran’s restrictions on women

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/eqJSvqcp968″][vc_column_text]The women behind Open Stadiums risk their lives to assert women’s rights to attend public sporting events in Iran. It’s a daring campaign which challenges the established Islamic order of Iran, and engages women in an issue many human rights activists have not in the past thought important.

2018 Freedom of Expression Awards link

Currently in Iran women face many restrictions on using public space. Swimming pools, schools, sports hall and even parks are gender segregated.

But the most potent example of their banishment from public life is that they are prohibited from going to popular sporting fixtures where men compete.

One of the successes of the Open Stadiums campaign has been to build the awareness of this as an issue.

Iran particularly enjoys competing in, and hosting international football and volleyball tournaments, and the Open Stadiums campaign has used Iran’s desire to take part in international competition to challenge the government’s ban on women attending events. In theory international sporting bodies do not allow member nations to use discriminatory practices during matches.

The campaigners face many difficulties. The organisers are worried that as their campaign becomes more successful, they will be identified and tracked. They cannot expand their campaign because they fear any foreign funds they receive will lead to then being identified and jailed, as the Iranian government continues to stifle dissent of any kind. The Iranian regime has a history of putting  women’s rights activists under pressure.

Despite the difficulties and fears, 2017 has been a successful year for the Open Stadiums campaign. But the success of the group has put them increasingly in the spotlight and therefore heightened the risk for them.

In May, the group used the slight easing of restrictions on public debate during the presidential election campaign to publish 21 demands for women and specifically pushed for women to be able to use public spaces and go to stadiums.

In September, the world’s media covered the fact women, despite having tickets, were refused entry to the football world cup qualifier between Syria and Iran in Tehran.

Two things this year have changed according to Open Stadiums. First, men and women in every match now complain about the ban on women at stadiums. They have been made to feel aware of the discrimination and it is talked about it a lot on social media. Second, MPs and people in power are beginning to talk about women’s rights to attend sports events in a way that would have been taboo before.

“I was happy down in my heart, especially when I read about the other nominees,” said Open Stadiums. “They were such great campaigns and people. I hadn’t heard of them before, and it was amazing to see how many individuals in this world are doing works not for more money but for better days for other people and society. This nomination gave me strength – yesterday when I was at risk of being arrested, I was thinking if i get arrested i know some people at least know about my passion and works i did these years.”

See the full shortlist for Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards 2018 here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” equal_height=”yes” el_class=”text_white” css=”.vc_custom_1490258749071{background-color: #cb3000 !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Support the Index Fellowship.” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:28|text_align:center” use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2Fsupport-the-freedom-of-expression-awards%2F|||”][vc_column_text]

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Meet the amazing women fighting censorship

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]From a journalist issued death threats for her investigative work and a activist who helps women and girls learn computer programming to foster female economic independence, to an organisation that provides support for female victims of online harassment, the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards shortlist includes women who work with bravery and persistence in the face of adversity.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate and honour the amazing women on our awards shortlist.

The Museum of Dissidence was co-founded by curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyv in Cuba. Nuñez Leyva was previously a staff writer at a magazine published by the ministry of culture until she was fired for her involvement with the museum. Despite this, she has continued her involvement with the museum organising radical public art projects and installations. The museum also seeks to reclaim a positive notion of the word “dissident” in Cuba.

The women-run campaign Open Stadiums asserts a woman’s rights to attend public sporting events in Iran. The campaign challenges the country’s current religious and political regime while engaging women in human rights conversations previously deemed unimportant. Iranian women face many restrictions in public spaces and Open Stadiums has generated conversations on their right to attend public events which is currently a taboo in the country.

Digital Rights Foundation is a cyber-harassment hotline based in Pakistan that helped over one thousand women in its first year. DRF provides a harassment helpline team which includes a digital security expert, a trained lawyer and a qualified psychologist, all of which can provide specialised assistance to women.

Digital Activism nominee Fereshteh Forough is the founder of Code to Inspire, a project that helps women and girls learn to code. The programme fosters female economic independence and broaden commercial opportunities for women in a patricahal society.  

Journalist Wendy Funes risks her life for the right to report in Honduras. Journalists in the country face a harsh and repressive environment, but Funes continues to report on corruption, injustice and violence against women in a country where one woman on average is killed every 16 hours.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”2″ element_width=”12″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1520503493497-3165bd85-48fb-3″ taxonomies=”10735″][/vc_column][/vc_row]