ISNA news agency reports that Aso Javaheri, an international Iranian women's football referee, has been banned from the sport due to what it called "research in the field of sociology of sports" and "gender studies and political economy in sports".
Alireza Sohrabi, head of the refereeing section of the Soccer Federation, was the one to inform Javaheri about the decision. It is likely the first time that a player, coach, referee or manager anywhere in the world has been banned from soccer activities because of their field of study.
This is a clear violation of world federation FIFA’s "Football for All" principle, as well as a violation of the provisions of FIFA's statute to eliminate discrimination.
Aso Javaheri is not only an international referee of women’s soccer and futsal, and a former player. Fans can find her on Instagram as a mountaineer, a conqueror of Iran's high peaks, and an environmental activist.
Born in February 1987 in Sanandaj, Javaheri is of Kurdish descent and has pursued a university education in tandem with soccer and mountaineering. In fact, she holds a PhD in economic sociology and development, and has conducted research in the fields of sociology of sport, urban research and political economy.
One of Javaheri’s most important articles was published in January 2020: a report entitled “Political Economy of Football in the Age of Neoliberalism,” which dealt with the relationship between political power and sports and "the politicization of soccer".
Javaheri has also worked in the media as both a researcher and journalist. Her writings generally chime with her specialized field of education, such as the report “Iranian Clubs Wandering in State Ruins.” She has also written articles on gender inequality in women's sports for Hamshahri newspaper.
Finally, Javaheri is a one of Iran’s best-known female football referees. Two rounds of refereeing in the finals of Iranian women's soccer competitions and refereeing in the 2019 Kafa tournament in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are among her career highlights to date.
Criticism of Gender Inequality Prohibited
In an interview with ISNA, Javaheri told the news agency precisely why she thought she had been removed from Iranian football. "After several articles and analytical interviews,” she said, “I was threatened with suspension once before, in the summer; according to my head of department, a letter of suspension had been sent.
“After that the head of the refereeing section said I had no right to give interviews. Although I insisted that I was familiar with the regulations and had not given a technical interview about refereeing or the Women's League matches, he replied in a very nasty, angry tone: ‘You have the right to speak and write about women's soccer and the same issues you have written about, unless you criticize of gender discrimination or inequality in Iranian soccer".
In the same interview, Ms. Javaheri emphasized that she had told Alireza Sohrabi, the head of the Soccer Federation’s refereeing section who was shouting at her, "I am not a fan, but a referee." Sohrabi told Javaheri to choose between refereeing and social research. He said that she would not referee in the Women's League until she changed her behavior.