A senior government official has told the Associated Press that a number of Iranian women can now watch men’s volleyball matches.

Women will be allowed to attend Volleyball World League games in Iran as part of a plan which will see women and families given permission to attend male sporting events, according to the Associated Press.

Iran: Women Now Able To Attend Men's Volleyball Matches

Issue garnered international attention last year

The issue drew international attention due to the detention of a British-Iranian woman who attempted to watch a men’s match in Iran in 2014. Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, part of the Cabinet of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, has said that officials hope that the move will not provoke a standoff with hard-liners.

The reforms will apply to women who wish to attend men’s matches in a selection of sports, including volleyball, basketball, handball and tennis, but will not apply to soccer, swimming or wrestling matches.

Molaverdi is known as a reformist politician and a women’s rights activist, and spoke to AP before an official announcement was made. “A limited number of women, mainly families of national team players,” will be allowed to watch the volleyball matches. She sees the approach as a way of gradually implementing the change.

“If it practically happens a few times, the concerns will be completely removed and it will be proven that allowing women to watch men’s sports matches is not problematic,” she said. “Necessary measures need to be taken in order not to spread concern. This is an issue that can be easily managed so that it would not turn into a predicament.”

Iran’s long-standing ban may finally be lifted

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 heralded the start of a ban on women attending sporting events in Iran, due to the fact that male athletes sometimes wear revealing clothing, and foul language is sometimes used by spectators. The issue entered the international consciousness last year following the arrest of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian women who tried to enter the stadium during a men’s volleyball match in Iran.

She was arrested, and then released a few hours later, only to be rearrested after a few days and charged with “propagating against the ruling system.” She is currently on bail pending an appeal against a one year jail term.

A number of women were permitted to attend a men’s basketball match last week, and the move did not lead to a significant backlash. Hard-line figures have however threatened to stoke public disapproval should women be allowed to watch a men’s volleyball match in Iran on June 19.