Iranian athletes currently rank fourth among countries grabbing medals at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, which began on November 12 and end on November 27. Iran has nine gold, seven silver, and 14 bronze medals.
Iranian female athletes have managed to win gold, silver, and bronze medals in sports as varied as taekwondo, kabaddi, dragon boat racing, and shooting.
Seyed Mohamamd Gharavi, a senior member of the Society of Qom’s Seminary Teachers, who does not seem to appreciate the success of women athletes, has said Iranian officials should “seriously” reconsider sending women to participate in international sporting events.
Gharavi is quoted as saying, “Sports are good for everyone and perhaps they have a higher priority for women,” while adding that participating in international competitions has certain rules and principles that are “not compatible with Islamic principles."
He also criticized Iranian state television for covering the games and airing some images that he said upset religious citizens.
“The authorities should know that the path they’ve taken is not controllable," he said. "Its proof are some of the actions that took place at the games and people also witnessed them. Those moves were not in harmony with Islamic ideas.”
Gharavi seemed to be referring to the airing of a few seconds of dancing by female Chinese dancers at the games that state television apparently did not manage to censor in time, as it usually does.
Iranian news websites reported that the dance by the Chinese women was seen for about three seconds in the background of an interview with an Iranian athlete at the games.
Women’s sports have always been controversial in the Islamic republic, where women face many restrictions in sports and other areas in the name of Islamic laws and religious sensitivities.
Women are allowed to participate only in competitions where they can adhere to the Islamic dress code, which can be uncomfortable while practicing some sports. The Islamic Women’s Games and other competitions where male spectators are not allowed give women the opportunity to compete in normal attire.
An Iranian hard-line cleric, Ayatollah Alam Alhoda, said in 2008 that it is unlawful for women to participate in sports.