Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Islamists have perverted mega-sporting events. It’s time to act

Shiva Amini, the Iranian football star, was expunged for life from national team and from any position as coach for having played in a friendly match, without headscarf and in shorts with boys, during a private trip in Italy and in Switzerland.

Paris 2024 should promote universality of women’s rights against Islamic sexist requirements in the Olympics.

Why should NGOs fighting for women’s rights pay a special attention to sport in general and more specifically to Olympics? For two reasons: First, because athletes practice their discipline in public space and wear clothes adapted to their movements. This played a major role in women’s emancipation. Secondly, because the universality of sport is based on global regulations applied to everyone at the national and continental level. Moreover, sport is characterized by a pyramidal structure with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the International Federations at the top. There are no limits to their power. Which is not the case of the United Nations.

Unhappily, successful exemptions of rules based on principles of non-discrimination, and of the ban of political and religious exhibition, were achieved by the intensive lobbying of Iran, supported by international sport networks.

In order to include women who are supposed to be willing to reconcile their beliefs and their sporting activities, constraints imposed by Islamist theocracies on women’s sport were accepted. These included covering the entire female body, no participation in mixed gender activities, access permitted only to those sports compatible with Islamic law.

Discriminatory and segregationist ways in stadiums have become an “inspiring” model for Muslim women, whatever their country of origin.

Dorsa Derakhshani, Iranian chess champion, was sanctioned for having played in competitions without a headscarf.

All the more so that clothing manufacturers and even manufacturers of toys quickly caught on to the immensely profitable emerging market that was thereby opening up for them[1]. See Nike’s launching of the clothing line “Nike pro Hijab”, and Mattel, the American manufacturer of a “Hijab Barbie”, in the effigy of the woman fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American athlete to be veiled and a bronze medal winner in 2016 at the Rio Olympics.

Paradoxical result of the will shown by international bodies to practice an inclusive policy in the field of sport was to relegate women and girls among the vulnerable groups. For example, the International Charter of physical education, physical activity and sport, revised in 2015, proclaims that: “Inclusive, adapted and safe opportunities to participate in physical education, physical activity and sport must be available to all human beings, notably children of pre-school age, women and girls, the aged, persons with disabilities and indigenous people”.

It’s high time that the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee reacts and applies all the universal principles in the Charter. These principles are: Non-discrimination, including that of sex (Principle N° 6)[2], neutrality such as stated in Rule 50 (“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”), the Olympic oath (“Granted the honour of becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee, (…) I undertake to keep myself free from any racial or religious consideration (…)”)

Yet, two countries — Iran and Saudi Arabia, still contravene both the letter and spirit of the Olympic Charter as they subject the participation of women in international competitions to considerations above mentioned that are in total contradiction to the terms of the Olympic Charter. Such archaic measures are among other humiliating ways sexual apartheid is imposed on their peoples by those political regimes[3].

How could the IOC accept such serious violations of the basic principles of the Charter when it excluded South Africa when racial apartheid was its rule?

The promotion of the concept of universality of human rights is an essential issue as it is too often criticized for the wrong reasons. The organization of the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games offer a unique opportunity to demonstrate the necessity of a strict implementation of these principles as stated in the Olympic Charter.

It’s not too soon to draw the attention of the organizers to this issue as they are just launching programmes promoting the Olympic Values towards the so-called “2024 Generation”.  

We demand that the President of the 2024 Paris Games draw the IOC President’s attention to the incompatibility of sexual apartheid with the Olympic Charter. Furthermore, has not the IOC inscribed in its 2020 agenda the promotion of “gender equality” and “mixed gender teams events”[4] as a priority, as did the Paris Olympic Committee?

  • If you  accept to support the  APPEAL to the 2024 Organizing Committee, please send your answer here: [email protected] and tell us how you want your name to appear in the list of signatures. The objective is to obtain 2024 signatures.  

[1] The Research Institute Thomson-Reuters estimates that the « modest style » market will be worth 484 billion dollars throughout the world (quoted in Le Monde supplement of 30 April, 2016, « Style Sets Sail »).

[2] In conformity with international texts  (cf. particularly, the International Convention for the elimination of discriminations against women ( CEDAW)

[3] These theocraties institutionalized sexual apartheid in the 1960s (Saudi Arabia during the oil boom and  its Islamic renewal) and in 1979 (Iran during its Islamic Revolution).

[4] 2020 Olympic Agenda : Recommendation N°11.

1 thought on “Islamists have perverted mega-sporting events. It’s time to act

  1. In the XXI century, women continue to be segregated in some areas, as in Olympic sport. Thank you Annie Sugier for making this situation visible and write for not discriminating against women in sport.

Leave a Reply