When Indian sportswomen refused to wear hijab to compete in Iran

Ace shooter Heena Sidhu and chess grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan have boycotted tournaments in Iran to protest against the hijab law

FP Staff September 20, 2022 14:34:22 IST
When Indian sportswomen refused to wear hijab to compete in Iran

Ace shooter Heena Sidhu and chess grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan have boycotted tournaments in Iran to protest against the regressive law

New Delhi: Protests against the law mandating the compulsory wearing of the hijab has rocked Iran over the past few days. Iranian women have come out onto the streets to assert their right not to wear the Islamic head scarf.

However, in the past, a couple of Indian women have also lodged their protest against the hijab law in Iran. Ace shooter Heena Sidhu and chess grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan have boycotted tournaments in Iran to protest against the regressive law.

According to Iran’s hijab law, all women in the country – including foreign visitors – are required to wear the hijab. Religious police patrol the streets in order to ensure that all women in public spaces comply with the controversial law.

Back in 2016, Heena Sidhu had pulled out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship, which was held in Tehran.

“Forcing tourists or foreign guests to wear ‘hijab’ is against the spirit of the game. Since I don’t like it, I have withdrawn my name. You follow your religion and let me follow mine. I’ll not participate in this competition if you are going to force me to comply with your religious beliefs,” Heena Sidhu had told the Times of India.

The shooter from Ludhiana had also taken to social media to express her opposition to the hijab law.

“Im not a revolutionary. But I feel dat making it mandatory for even a sportsperson to wear hijab is not in the spirit of a Sport. Im proud 2 b sportsperson coz ppl from diff cultures, backgrouds, sexes, ideologies, religion can cum 2gether n compete without biases,” she had posted on Twitter.

Soumya Swaminathan also protested against Iran’s hijab law

Soumya Swaminathan, on the other hand, had decided to pull out of the Indian squad for the Asian Team Chess Championship, which was also held in Tehran, in 2018.

“I am very sorry to state that I have asked to be excused from the Indian Women’s team for the forthcoming Asian Nations Cup (Asian Team) Chess Championship 2018, to be held at Iran from 26 July – 4 Aug 2018, as I do not wish to be forced to wear a Headscarf or Burkha. I find the Iranian law of compulsory Headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic Human Rights including my right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” Soumya Swaminathan had said in a statement on Facebook.

“It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran. I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given such less importance while allotting and/or organising official championships. I understand the organisers expecting us to wear our National Team Dress or Formals or Sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely there is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in Sports,” she added.

“It is a huge honour for me to represent India everytime I am selected in the National Team and I deeply regret that I will be unable to participate in such an important championship. While we sportspersons are willing to make several adjustments for the sake of our sport, always giving it top priority in our life, some things simply cannot be compromised.”

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