BANGKOK (Reuters) - Asia’s most powerful sports official has asked Iran for a report on the imprisonment of an Iranian-British woman who took part in a demonstration in Tehran against a ban on females attending some men’s sporting events.
Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was jailed for a year for spreading anti-state propaganda, Iranian media said, after being arrested for demanding that women be allowed to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy.
The case has drawn international attention and Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), told reporters on Wednesday that he had asked for an explanation on what happened.
But the Kuwaiti, who is also the president of the National Association of Olympic Committees (ANOC), currently meeting in Bangkok, said he did not support the principle of protestors using sports for political demonstrations.
“Don’t see it only that she has a British passport. If she’s Iranian, she doesn’t have to use this benefit for politics in sport.” he said.
“If she’s using this (dual) nationality for a political situation, we will reject it because we don’t want anybody to use sport for politics.
“In sport we want peace and solidarity. If somebody will use it for wrong messages, we can resist. You have to know that there are different cultures around the world, it’s not only one culture.”
Women’s rights in sport have become a hot topic for Sheikh Ahmad in recent months after a series of incidents at the Asian Games in South Korea.
Human Rights Watch criticized Saudi Arabia for excluding women from its team for the Asian Games, accusing the ultra-conservative Islamic state of shutting the door on female athletes.
Qatar then pulled out of the women’s basketball competition after refusing to abide by international regulations preventing them from wearing hijabs.
Under the strict rules of the International Basketball Federation, women are not allowed to wear their Islamic headscarves during competition, but Qatar’s women refused to comply, and quit the competition in protest.
An Iranian team official was also thrown out of the Games after being charged with sexually harassing a female volunteer while a Palestine soccer player was charged with the same offense after another incident at the athletes village.
On Wednesday, Sheikh Ahmad announced that women would have a greater representation in sports politics in the future, with at least one woman from each continent assured a place on the ANOC executive board.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar