Iran: Women excluded from sports in the name of Islam

Tehran, 19 Dec. (AKI) - The vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee, Abdolreza Savar, has announced new rules to fight what he defines as the sport's "subjugation to western customs and practices"

In a memorandum sent to all sporting federations, Savar, who is in-charge of the "proper behaviour of male and female athletes" said that "severe punishment will be meted out to those who do not follow Islamic rules during sporting competitions" both local and abroad.

The memorandum also said that "no male coach can train or accompany the athletes when they travel abroad."

"If female trainers are not found, our female teams will not participate in international competitions," said Savar.

Iran's athletes are considered among the best in the Middle East, but due to severe restrictions imposed by the government, women are sometimes excluded from competition and prevented from fully exploiting their potential.

An example of this is the Iranian volleyball team, which has not been able to qualify to any international competition, as it does not have a trainer.

"In volleyball there aren't any female trainers capable, and the Olympic committee does not allow us to employ males to train the female team," said Saiid Derakhshandeh, president of the Iranian Voleyball Federation.

Iran's voleyball team was once considered to be among the best in Asia.

The memorandum also referred to new rules regarding the attire worn by the athletes, saying that if these rules are not followed, the athletes will be severely punished and will not be able to participate in future national or international competitions.

Savar also made reference to a Tae-Kwon-Do competition held on the island of Macau, in China when a male referee grabbed and raised the arm of a female Iranian player who had won a tournament.

He said that Iran's sportswomen will not participate at the next Olympic games, in any discipline, where there will be any sort of physical contact with the referee, if it is a man.

Iran's objective, says Savar "is not just to win medals, but to promote Islamic culture, and thus we have decided to inaugurate an exhibition dedicated to Islamic values during the Olympic games in Beijing" in 2008.

Other women in Iran have also been prevented from pursuing their sporting activities.

Iranian rally car champion driver Laleh Seddigh was banned for 12 months from participating in any race.

She was accused of having tampered with her car's engine during her last race in Iran.

In a telephone interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) Seddigh says "It's a conspiracy, I did not commit any irregularities. They simply want to exclude me from racing because I'm a woman."

Seddigh, known as the "Schumacher of the East", in reference to the now retired seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher.

"They probably did not appreciate the fact that I am a woman and at the same time the most famous racecar driver in the Middle East," she said. "They would prefer to see a woman with a frying pan or an iron in her hand."


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