Women's Rights & Movements in IranThe Dire Situation of Iranian Women's Sports

The Dire Situation of Iranian Women’s Sports


As Tuesday was the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, what better time to examine the situation of women in sport under in Iran. It turns out that Iranian women are hugely underrepresented in sports, but let’s look at some of the reasons why this might be the case.

The national women’s football team was removed from the FIFA rankings in December because it had been inactive for two years and Iranian federation officials didn’t do anything in response. This isn’t surprising because, as the team’s head coach Azam Gholami points out, the federation doesn’t care about women’s sports and offers them no facilities, which affects their ability to practice and play.

Meanwhile, referee Asoo Javaheri was banned from refereeing matches for two months this year because of her research into gender, sports, discrimination, and inequality.

The national futsal team, which has won the Asian Cup two times running, was supposed to go to their camp in March but the federation banned them over coronavirus concerns. The men’s camp met several times. On a related note, in the three years since the women’s team last won, they have not received the prize fund of 22-million Tomans.

The head coach of the women’s national alpine skiing team, Samira Zargari, was not allowed to go with the team to the World Cup in Italy because her husband refused permission for her to leave the country. This has also happened to athletes Niloufar Ardalan and Zahra Nemati in the past and will happen in the future because of the government’s misogynous laws.

Women are banned from participating in the Zurkhaneh bodybuilding sport after a group of men and officials issued a statement opposing it in July 2020, saying that this sport was “disgusting” for women.

Meanwhile, there is no law against women cycling, but they are still de facto banned by the misogynous attitudes of mullahs, which closed some bicycle rental stations last year for renting bikes to women. Meanwhile, certain cities have issued actual bans.

Many women want to surf, but the government only allows girls to learn the sport until hitting puberty, after which point they are no longer allowed to practice. Worse still, this means there are no female coaches to train girls, so many cannot even begin to learn.

Regarding the sport of chess, the federation is heavily influenced by the Sports and Youth Ministry to enforce the compulsory hijab on women, with refusal to adhere to this law punishable by 75 lashes, imprisonment, and even the confiscation of your passport.

Shohreh Bayat, a senior member of the FIDE Referees Committee, referee of the World Championships, and secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation, is one of several female Iranian chess players who refused to return to Iran after competitions abroad.

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