A letter has been sent by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging him to "reconsider the decision" to imprison Ghoncheh Ghavami, the 25-year-old who violated the ban on women attending volleyball matches in the Islamic country.
But at the same time FIVB President Dr Ary S Graça has claimed he would welcome a bid from the country to host the 2018 World Championships, even though the Iranian ban on women is against the Olympic Charter.
Ghavami, a law student at the University of London, who was in Iran visiting relatives and working for a charity teaching literacy to street children, has been held at Evin Prison in Tehran since she attended an FIVB World League match between Iran and Italy at the Azadi Stadium on June 20.
Earlier this week she started a hunger strike in protest at her detention, as well as the fact she is currently banned from having visitors.
Her lawyer has revealed that she will stand trial on Tuesday (October 14), although she faces charges for "propaganda against the regime" rather than specifically for attending the volleyball match.
Last month, Graça claimed the world governing body had no power to force the Iranian Government to change its views because he was it not up to them to interfere in the country's culture.
The Brazilian has also welcomed a proposed bid from Iran to host the men's edition of the 2018 World Championships.
Iran men's team finished sixth at the recent World Championships in Poland before winning gold at the Asian Games in Incheon.
"The World Championship has not yet been held in Iran but the country has hosted World League matches before and we want to give all countries the opportunity to host our signature event," he reportedly told the Tasnim News Agency, adding he "would be very pleased to see Iran bid for the Championship in 2018".
When asked by insidethegames whether the ban on women attending matches should prevent Iran from hosting the sport's flagship event, the FIVB claimed steps are being taken to remedy the situation.
"The FIVB has the utmost respect for the independence of the laws of all nations," a spokeswoman told insidethegames.
"However, the most important requirement for any country, not only for Iran, to host the FIVB Volleyball World Championships is to meet and reflect the FIVB values.
"In accordance with the Olympic Charter, the FIVB is committed to inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sport on an equal basis.
"The FIVB has sent a letter directly to his Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to urge him to reconsider the decision to keep Ghoncheh Ghavami under arrest and is taking the overall situation very seriously, and is doing everything in its power to help find a way for women to attend and support the Iranian men's future volleyball matches."
A ban on women attending football matches in Iran has been in place since 1979 and was extended to volleyball in 2012.
More than 130 women's rights activists have written to Graça and demanded he protect the right of Iranian women to enter sports stadiums and attend volleyball matches, including Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate.
Ghavami's London-based brother, Iman, has also set up an online petition "Bring my sister home; #FreeGhonchehGhavami خواهرم را به خانه برگردانید" to put pressure on Iran and other national Governments in an effort to secure her safe release.
More than 580,000 people have so far signed the petition.
Since being elected President in 2013 Rouhani has made several reformist gestures, including taking steps to improve women's rights by appointing female Foreign Ministry spokespersons.
But these gestures have been limited, and, with much power still vested in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the lifting of the ban on women attending sports matches seems unlikely to be a straightforward process.
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