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The Olympics are a time for countries to come together. The friendly competitions and rivalries inspire countries to celebrate the differences. However, sometimes the highlighted differences can bring light to issues within the country’s community. Though political protest is not legal within the Olympics, one woman named Darya Safai believes the issues affecting her and other Iranian women cannot be silenced. As a result, she used the popularity of the Olympics as a platform to protest what she believes is unjust treatment.
It began on August 14th, during an Olympic preliminary volleyball match between Iran and Egypt. Darya held a sign saying, “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums.” She was asked to leave due to political statements during the Olympics are banned, but she stayed. She cried when asked to leave. “I am so sorry,” She said to officials, “What I am fighting for is right for Iranian women to be at matches. It is my right to be here. It is the basic right of Iranian Women.” After hearing this statement, security agreed to let her stay.
Darya used to be an Iranian woman herself until she moved to Belgium. After being arrested in 1999 for partaking in anti-government demonstrations, she moved to Belgium. She joined Sports protesting in 2014. This is her first Olympic protest. Now she fights for the women she left behind.
Banned from attending all men’s sports events in Iran since 1979, women find themselves at a loss. They cannot even cheer for their husbands or teams. Iran banned women from volleyball tournaments in 2012, due to it becoming increasingly popular with the male and female population.
“I love volleyball, football,” Darya announced. “Because I love our national team. We want to enjoy [the team], men and women. I want to cheer my national team.” Her goals of the protest include announcing the Olympic Committee’s mission in allowing women to 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.”
Darya Safai plans to watch all of Iran’s volleyball matches.
“I kept the banner up for the whole length of the match,” she told BBC here. “My hands were shivering from holding the banner. But I kept it until the end.”
And she’ll keep holding it. In the name of all the women who should be able to watch volleyball. In the name of all the female fans. She will wave that banner for all oppressed women in Iran.