An interesting and somewhat reassuring article. I’ve often wondered about the Muslim women’s involvement in Sports at a professional level.
It’s also renewed my interest in marksmanship. My aim’s poor at best yet I’m unable to explain my desire to sign up at my local firing range. Considering the fact that some Muslim boys got chased up by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, an oxymoron if ever there were one) for signing up for Paintballing , I’m hesitant to pursue this perceived pleasure. But let me bask in the satisfaction of pulling a trigger and its deafening song.
Here are some excerpts:
Nineteen-year-old Nassim Hassanpour concentrates hard on the target in front of her. Her arm is still and her grip on the air pistol is steady. She fires and the bullet passes through the middle of the target. Her face remains impassive as she reloads.
In the weeks running up to the Games, Ms Hassanpour was working on her skills for more than six hours a day. The burden on her shoulders was huge.
Not only is she the only Iranian female taking part in the Olympics, she is also the youngest competitor on the team.
“Because I am representing Iranian women I feel special. I just want to deserve to be there and to achieve a good result. If I do, it might inspire other Iranian women,” she says.
Shooting is not Ms Hassanpour’s number one sport. Her passion is gymnastics but because of Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, she cannot compete in it internationally.
So when talent scouts came to her sporting high school in Tabriz, north-western Iran a few years ago, she decided to follow their advice and take up marksmanship.
“I didn’t choose shooting. I wasn’t even interested in it as I had a different concept about what shooting meant. But I’d like to achieve something internationally for my country so that’s why I decided to take it up.”
“You can’t deny that hejab [Islamic dress] gets in the way,” says Firouzeh Zamani, who has been playing golf for more than 10 years.
“But you adapt. For example I wear stretchy material which enables me to move freely and I tie my scarf behind my neck, not in front. It’s a lot better than 10 years ago, so things are improving.”
At Tehran’s largest sports club, there are six times more tennis courts for men than there are for women. The few that women can play on are covered.
“It’s very hard for women to reach a professional level here in Iran, for the very fact that they provide us with fewer facilities,” saysMsHassanpour.
“Basically in our society, women are not valued the same as men. In the same way, here in sport, we have less, especially in my field where you need to have good equipment and a proper hall.”
Some believe if flexibility is shown on both sides, then the situation for women athletes would improve.
“I think if we design a new dress code that will be accepted by the international authorities and stay within our laws, then I’m sure there would be other sports that our women can take part in,”saysFarideh Shojaie, deputy head of Enqelab sports club.
Competitions designed for Muslim women do take place. The Islamic Women’s Games allows women to take part in all sports in normal attire.
There are just no male judges or spectators allowed to attend. But for those Iranian women whose hearts are set on an Olympic medal, the choice of sport will remain limited long after the games in Athens are over.