Let's give equality a medal this Olympics
A year later, the Middle Eastern nation has once again made headlines worldwide but for a wrong reason. Iran's sole female Olympic medallist Kimia Alizadeh has announced that she is defecting to Europe
Last year, Iran made history when as many as 3,500 female football fans were allowed to enter the Azadi Stadium in Tehran for a World Cup qualifier. This was the first time Iran had allowed women to watch a sports event since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
A year later, the Middle Eastern nation has once again made headlines worldwide but for a wrong reason. Iran's sole female Olympic medallist Kimia Alizadeh has announced that she is defecting to Europe. Alizadeh, who became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal by bagging a bronze in the 57kg category of Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, citing the "hypocrisy" of a system she claims humiliates athletes while using them for political ends.
"I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran with whom they have been playing for years...I wore whatever they told me to wear [Islamic veil]... I repeated everything they told me to say... None of us matter to them," the 21-year-old wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
Criticising Iran's political system for "hypocrisy", "lying", "injustice" and "flattery", Alizadeh said she wanted nothing more than "taekwondo, security and a happy and healthy life". Saudi Arabia, another country in the Middle East, 'allows' women to compete in the Olympics but entrenched socio-cultural norms back home make it very difficult for them to train. Many Islamic nations do not allow women to enter sports unless they wear what their custom dictates, like hijab.
Let there be equality in sports this year, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games of 2020. The countries, which bar their women from entering stadiums because men play there, need to be disbarred from competing. Olympic authorities and international organisations need to pressurise such countries to allow women to make free choices. Women athletes cannot and should not be forced to adhere to a dress code that keeps them covered from head to toe. It is ridiculous that they are denied access to certain training facilities and stadiums and sports event where men play. End all restrictions on sportswomen, all diktats snuffing out women's sporting dreams. Put real meaning to the greatest sports event in the world by making equality a cornerstone.
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