theguardian.com – Samira Zargari, the coach of the Iranian women’s Alpine skiing team, has been barred by her husband from travelling to Italy for the world skiing championships, according to reports in the Iranian press.
The squad left for Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the championships are being held, on Wednesday, but without Zargari, who was replaced by another athlete, Marjan Kalhor.
Iran’s pro-reform Shargh daily newspaper and the semi-official Isna news agency reported the story, but without providing details. Iran’s ski federation has also not given any information. However, under Iranian law, a married woman cannot obtain a passport or travel outside of the country without her husband’s permission.
The Alpine world ski championships got under way in the Veneto resort of Cortina earlier this month and ends on 21 February. Four Iranian skiers, including Atefeh Ahmadi, Sadaf Savehshemshaki, Forough Abbasi and Marjan Kalhor, will compete in the women’s giant slalom race on Thursday.
The mayor of Cortina, Gianpietro Ghedina, told the Italian press: “I do not evaluate the customs or regulations of other countries. But we are hosting a sporting event which, above all, welcomes people from all over the world. Sport is usually something that unites, not divides.”
This is not the first time a married female athlete has been stopped by her husband from leaving Iran. In 2015, footballer Niloufar Ardalan was barred from going to the Asian games in Malaysia by her husband, Mehdi Tutunchi, a TV sports presenter.
Tutunchi exercised his right to stop his wife from leaving the country, claiming that the games coincided with their son’s first day at school. A couple of months later, a court overturned the ban, allowing Ardalan to travel abroad to compete in other events.
Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, women’s sports have gradually become more popular, especially football. However, women still have to comply with social rules, such as covering their hair with hijabs during games. Since 1981, women have been banned from entering stadiums to watch men’s sporting events. The rule was temporarily lifted in 2019, when women were allowed to enter Tehran’s Azadi stadium to watch Iran’s World Cup 2022 qualifier against Cambodia after Fifa threatened to suspend Iran from the tournament.
In January 2020, Iran’s only female Olympic medallist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced she was leaving the country for the Netherlands, describing herself as “one of millions of oppressed women in Iran”.