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Iranian Woman Arrested for Attending Men's Volleyball Match; Mother Asks for Prayer as Daughter Goes on Hunger Strike

( [email protected] ) Oct 06, 2014 11:56 AM EDT

Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami
Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was arrested after attending a men's volleyball game in Iran. (Free Ghoncheh/Facebook)

The mother of a British-Iranian woman is desperately praying for her daughter who is on a hunger strike while being held in Iran's Evin political prison after her arrest for attending a men's volleyball match.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, from Shepherd's Bush in west London, was arrested after trying to watch the match at Tehran's Azadi Stadium in June. She reportedly began the protest after being kept in solitary detention for the last 100 days.

Her mother Susan Moshtaghian talked about her daughter's protest in an emotional update on a Facebook page set up to campaign for her release.

"Finally yesterday I got to see my Ghoncheh. She said she could no longer tolerate her condition and as such has decided to go on hunger strike," wrote Mrs Moshtaghian.

"I too am not going to eat until such a time that my Ghoncheh breaks her hunger strike. My God, you are a witness to how I kept my silence for 82 days so my innocent girl comes back home safely. But now that her health and life are in danger I am not going to sit in silence. Please God, end this nightmare for me. Please give me strength to save and release my darling child."

According to Amnesty International, women have been banned from attending male volleyball matches in Iran since 2012.

Ghavami, who has dual British-Iranian citizenship, was in the country working for a charity teaching literacy to street children and visiting relatives at the time of her arrest.

The Telegraph reports that Ghavami was detained outside the Azadi Stadium in the capital, Tehran, after she and fellow women's rights campaigners tried to enter the arena to watch an Iran-Italy volleyball match.

Shiva Nazar Ahari, a leading rights activist, was among the women protesting alongside Miss Ghavami that day. She wrote on her Facebook page that their demand simply was to be allowed to enter the stadium.

"We wanted to go to the stadium together. We wanted to go sit on those chairs to scream and cheer for our national team," she wrote.

The protesters had tried to get through heavy security but were arrested. Ghavami was then released on bail, but when she returned a week later to collect her belongings she was arrested and put into solitary confinement.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond raised Ms Ghavami's case in a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The Foreign Office has previously said it is "concerned" about Ms Ghavami's detention, adding: "We are in touch with her family and we have raised our concerns with the Iranian government and asked for more information about her welfare and the charges against her."

However, Iran's judiciary denies the charges against Ghavami concerning the stadium visit, with spokesman Ghulam Hussein Mohseni Ejeyie saying last month that Miss Ghavami has been charged with "propaganda against the regime."

"Miss Ghavami's arrest and imprisonment has nothing to do with the issue of sports and women's participations in stadiums, and is a national security matter," he said.

A petition set up on Change.org to appeal for her release has now been signed by more than half a million people.