Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Iran: Women's Sports Chief Speaks Out Against Government

Adnkronos International:
Ahead of the Islamic Women's Games tournament scheduled to kick off in Tehran on Thursday, the president of the Iranian women's sports federation, Faezeh Hashemi, has launched a scathing attack against the country's new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who triumphed over her father Hashemi Rafsanjani in elections in June.

"The games will take place despite radical political change in the country" said Hashemi, warning that "some forces currently in power would like women to abandon sports" - a clear reference to Ahmadinejad and his radical Islamist supporters. READ MORE

Her remarks come amid a decision by the Iranian volleyball federation to withdraw its women's team from the competition and accusations by many Iranian sports offcials that Hashemi's Muslim Women's Sport Foundation (MWSF) is squandering government funds.

Some 254 teams from 48 countries are expected to participate in the Islamic Women's Games which will feature 18 sports disciplines from football and basketball to golf and athletics. To date 2,000 athletes have arrived in Tehran, including a team from Britain and an American athlete.

Competition will take place under strict dress codes with athletes obliged to wear headscarfs or the hijab in all the events except for the swimming races from which male spectators will be banned.

With photojournalists only allowed to cover the golf, clay pigeon shooting and archery competions most of the media attention will focus on the opening ceremony and the prize-giving ceremonies. Mobile telephones equipped with photo cameras will be banned.

The absence of media coverage has made it difficult for the tournament to attract sponsors througout its 12-year history. The Islamic Women's Games were launched in 1993 to give female athletes from Muslim countries an opportunity to play sport at an international level, while not violating Sharia law by competing in front of men in inappropriate attire.

Ever since its creation the games have been held in Tehran. Other Muslim countries have asked to host them but "only Saudi Arabia could qualify," specified Hashemi, since it is the only other Muslim country which strictly applies the customs such as the wearing of the hijab.