Last week, Tehran's women's swim team beat Armenia and Qatar for a gold medal at the fourth annual All-Women Games for Muslim and Asian Capitals. The Iranian women also received a gold medal in taekwando at the event, which was held in Tehran and attended by some 600 competitors from 17 countries. Sound surprising? It shouldn't.
The All-Women Games were started in 1993 by Faezeh Hashemi, the vice president of Iran's National Olympic Committee, as a way for Iranian women to participate in sports while maintaining their religious beliefs and laws. In the past, one of the reasons Iranian women were not able to participate in sports was because of their country's strict dress code. So that women can compete in sports-appropriate clothing at the All Women affair, men are banned from observing or officiating all events except for 'shooting.'
Hashemi has had a significant effect on women's athletics in Iran. In addition to starting the All-Women Games, she also campaigned for an Iranian women's football program. Iran's Football Association has since agreed to let Iran's Women's Football Association use the same training complex the men's national team uses for a 10-day women's training camp, provided the men are gone during that time.
Michael Theodoulou reports in the Christian Science Monitor that sports such as mountaineering, golf, skiing, and paragliding are all popular with Iranian women because they are 'activities in which the need to keep the body well covered is not a serious hindrance to performance.'
Last year, the Iran Mountaineering Federation challenged women climbers in Iran to take on Everest -- 69 women responded. The group, which needs to raise $400,000 for the expedition, plans on scaling the peak in May. Theodoulou explains that 'success would put the team in an elite as rarefied as the atmosphere at the mountain's 8,850-meter summit.' No Muslim women, and fewer than 100 women from the world over, have ever reached the summit of Mount Everest, which is the world's tallest peak.
Although women in sports still stirs controversy in Iran, it has the support of many Iranian men. During the opening ceremony for the Games, parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said that sports are an important part of a healthy society and 'we want to show to the worlds that Muslim women can be active in sporting fields while observing morals.' He also pointed out that, 'we want to prove that the Islamic Republic can develop women's sports without making a copy of other nations' programs since it has the capacity to promote sports among women and observe the Islamic dress code at the same time.'
Go there >> Tehran, Champion of Islamic Women Contests
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