London’s Iranian community has condemned the jailing of a Shepherd’s Bush woman for trying to attend a volleyball match and called it an attack on women by the Iranian regime.
Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was sentenced to a year in prison yesterday (November 2) after being found guilty of spreading anti-regime propaganda following her arrest in June when she took part in a peaceful protest at a men’s volleyball match in the capital, Tehran.
Her lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said he had been shown a text from the judge with her sentence but her brother, Iman Ghavani, 28, told Channel 4 news last night she is still not aware she has been sent to jail for a year.
The Iranian Association in King Street, Hammersmith, has called Miss Ghavami brave and is supporting calls by Amnesty International and Iranian women’s groups throughout London who want her to be released.
Kaveh Kalantari, manager of the Iranian Association, said: “The prison sentence for Ghoncheh Ghavami is just the latest in what appears to be a concerted attack on women by the Iranian regime. There are many women’s rights activists in prison, other women have suffered acid attacks and a young woman was executed just last week. Ghoncheh, and all these brave women, deserve our support.”
Miss Ghavami was arrested and bailed then re-arrested when she went to collect her belongings and held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, famous for its political prisoners, without access to her lawyer for several weeks.
She has dual British-Iranian nationality and studied law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), however attempts by foreign secretary Philip Hammond to raise her case with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javed Zarif, at the United Nations appeared futile as Iran refuses to acknowledge her dual nationality.
Her brother said: “She didn’t break a single law on that day because she didn’t force her way into the stadium, she was simply asking for the guards to let her pass the gates. So I still don’t understand why she would be arrested in the first place.”
Amnesty International has called for her release and said she had undertaken a two week hunger strike last month over her detention.
The British Foreign Office has said it has concerns over the grounds for her prosecution, due process during the trial and her treatment in custody.
In 2012, women were banned from watching volleyball matches in Iran, joining the ban for watching football matches in stadiums which started in 1979.
However, her brother says the president of Iran was advocating at the time for women to be able to be allowed into stadiums and there was a formal agreement with the International Volleyball Federation so women would be allowed into the Iran vs. Italy match.
To view a petition to David Cameron and the Iran government, launched by Iman Ghavami, visit change.org