close button
Switch to Iranwire Light?
It looks like you’re having trouble loading the content on this page. Switch to Iranwire Light instead.
switch sites
Society & Culture

How Does Iran Treat its Women Athletes?

August 8, 2016
4 min read
Just for the Show? Disabled athlete Zahrah Nemati carries Iranian flags at the opening ceremonies.
Just for the Show? Disabled athlete Zahrah Nemati carries Iranian flags at the opening ceremonies.
Neda Shahsavari’s coach arrived in Rio four hours after she lost the game.
Neda Shahsavari’s coach arrived in Rio four hours after she lost the game.
TV anchor Javad Khiabani did not know that shooter Najmeh Khedmati had been eliminated in the first round.
TV anchor Javad Khiabani did not know that shooter Najmeh Khedmati had been eliminated in the first round.
  • Only nine Iranian women are competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Iranian women's competitions have been minimally covered by Iranian state media.
  • Some women athletes have had to travel to Rio without a coach.

 

There are only nine Iranian women competing at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year, compared to 52 men. In a country where women are not allowed to watch football games in stadiums or ride bicycles in public, the role of women in sports has long been contested. Now, many Iranians are watching closely to see how Iran treats its women athletes, and how it presents them in the media. Sadly, of them have already faced unexpected disappointments.

One problem Iranian women athletes face is neglect by Iranian state media. When, for example, Elaheh Ahmadi entered the finals for the women’s 10m air rifle competition, Iranian TV did not cover her performance. She was so dismayed that she retreated to a corner and started praying.

Even before Ahmadi left for Rio, she was having trouble getting the Sports Ministry and the Shooting Federation to pay her eight months’ back pay. A reporter once told her, “When they don’t pay you for eight months, then forget about the Olympics. Put aside the fact that you might lose if you go. But if you win your medal, your ranking would be claimed by these same gentlemen.” Ahmadi said she was not going to the Olympics for the sake of these gentlemen. She said that she was fighting for herself, and to open the road for other women.

A man who goes by the name “Amir Ali” works for Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Iran’s main state TV channel. He told IranWire that until Thursday afternoon, IRIB had planned to broadcast live all the events in which Iranian athletes competed. But on Saturday, the plan suddenly changed.

When the first round of shooting competitions was over, TV sports anchor Javad Khiabani invited viewers to watch two clips received from Brazil. On Friday, an IRIB cameramen interviewed two Iranian woman shooters before competitions got underway. Najmeh Khedmati smiled at the camera and said, “I am very hopeful. In practices my records were good and if they remain like that, I am sure that I will get into the finals.” Khiabani then smiled at the camera and said, “Yes...we also wish Ms. Najmeh Khedmati success.”

Unfortunately, the clip had aired too late. Just 15 minutes earlier, Khedmati had been eliminated in the preliminary round. It turns out that IRIB decided not to broadcast Iranian woman athletes’ competitions in preliminary rounds. They gave no reasons.

 

Good Luck without a Coach!

Neda Shahsavari is an Iranian ping-pong champion who made history in 2012 when she became the first Iranian woman to qualify for the Olympics. Since then, she has twice come first at The Central Asian Games. Shortly before going to Rio, the Ping-Pong Federation announced that her coach, Sima Limoochi, could not accompany her, and did nothing to arrange her visa or provide her a uniform. The Iranian National Olympic Committee claimed that it had no budget to buy her airline ticket.

But in Iran, women athletes have a passionate and well-connected advocate named Robab Shahrian, who is the deputy in charge of women’s sports at the Ministry of Sports. In Shahsavari’s case, Shahrian personally intervened. She went to the office of President Hassan Rouhani and secured the budget for sending Shahsavari’s coach. Alas, there was a catch. Sima Limoochi did not accompany Shahsavari, but arrived in Rio four hours after Shahsavari had been eliminated in the first round. This meant both of them had to return to Iran almost immediately.

Shahsavari was not the only competitor without a coach present. A month before the Olympics, shot putter Leila Rajabi was also told that she must go to Rio without her coach, her husband Peyman Rajabi. Once again, Robab Shahrian appealed to the office of the President Rouhani, and secured a promise that a woman coach would accompany Rajabi. It has yet to be seen whether the coach will arrive in Rio before she competes.

On the face of it, the situation of Iranian women athletes may not look so bad. At the opening ceremonies, Iran chose Zahra Nemati, a disabled archery champion to carry the Iranian flag. Nemati was followed by Golnoosh Sebghatollahi, the shooting athlete, in her full chador. But some might say these women were just there for the eyes of the world. Behind the scenes, women athletes still stand at the back of the line.

comments

Technology

Pokémon Go: A Tool of the CIA?

August 8, 2016
Shima Shahrabi
6 min read
Pokémon Go: A Tool of the CIA?