An Iranian woman was asked to remove her protest sign and leave the Olympic preliminary volleyball match between Egypt and Iran on Saturday.
Darya Safai's sign read, "Let Iranian women enter their stadiums," in reference to the country's restriction of women from all-male sporting events, the BBC reported. The International Olympic Committee bans political statements at the games.
After she refused to leave, security staff left her alone and she continued to hold her sign throughout the match.
"I am so sorry. What I am fighting for is for the right for Iranian women to be at matches. It is my right to be here. It is the basic right of Iranian women," Safai told security staff, according to BBC.
At one point, Safai briefly cried and said, "it hurts," The Independent reported.
"The Olympic Spirit, which is against discrimination, is what Iranian women need in their country," she told The Independent. "It should the right of everyone, men AND women, to attend a sports game. It is a pity that women have to travel to Brazil to watch and cheer for their national team."
Safai, 35, was born in Tehran, Iran, but now lives in Belgium. She is founder and director of "Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums!" Along with friends who were with her, she wore a T-shirt with the same saying, The Associated Press reported.
She said planned to bring the same message to Monday's game.
Iran has long banned women from attending soccer games. In 2012, that ban was extended to volleyball games.
"This is not a political statement. This is not a political issue," USA Volleyball chairwoman Lori Okimura told the AP. "This, to me, is not about politics, it's about gender. Volleyball has always been about equality, why now are we not sending that same consistent message?"
Many Twitter users applauded the woman.
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