Three Iranian female athletes left Iran permanently in December 2019 and January 2020 with no intention of returning.
Parvaneh Salahshouri, a member of the mullahs’ parliament, tweeted about the athletes’ emigration, calling it a serious warning: “This is a serious warning to the authorities. How long are you going to ignore the people?”
Resignation, dismissals of Iranian female athletes
Martial Arts: Kimia Alizadeh, a Taekwondo Belt, had won several world medals – including an Olympic Bronze. She left the country permanently in December and emigrated to the Netherlands. One of her Instagram messages points to the main reason that athletes are leaving Iran: “I’m one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran, and I have been toyed with for years. I wasn’t important for them [the regime]. None of us was. We were just tools.” They humiliate you and say, ‘A woman’s virtue is in not stretching her legs…’ In your patriarchal and misogynist minds, you always thought ‘Kimia is a woman and she doesn’t speak.’” She added, “Whenever they wanted, they seized me. They even claimed my medals and victories were because of their oppressive dress code and hijab.”
Chess: Iran’s chess referee, Shohreh Bayat, protested the mandatory veil policy, announcing during the Women’s World Chess Championship that she would not return to Iran. (The state-run ISNA News Agency – January 20, 2020)
On January 17, 2020, the 32-year-old Iranian chess referee told Reuters: “I really hope they will provide me something to ensure I will be safe if I come back to Iran.”
“Bayat also said that the Iran Chess Federation had asked her to write an apology and to post it online, something she said she had refused to do because she did not want to support the hijab publicly,” Reuters wrote.
Mitra Hejazipour, a chess grandmaster, is another example. Iran’s Chess Federation expelled her from the National Chess Team on January 2, 2020 for boldly removing her headscarf during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow. This was considered an act of defiance against the compulsory Islamic dress code (hijab).
In explaining her actions, she posted on Instagram: “These are the most basic of human rights.” She went on to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by adding: “Our lives will end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Sara-sadat Khadem-o Shari’eh (Sara Khadem), an Iranian chess player who holds both titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster, posted on Instagram on January 12, 2020 that she would no longer be willing to represent the Iranian chess federation at international competitions. She clarified that she is not renouncing her citizenship; rather, she is competing on her own.
Khadem-o Shari’eh, the world’s No. 13 chess player, wrote about her retirement and emigration: “They don’t let me focus on my work in a quiet place. They don’t understand. They’ll never understand. Nobody has the right to make me stay or go.”
Rugby: Fatemeh Noori, the first Iranian female international rugby referee, posted on Instagram, announcing her resignation, citing “insults toward the opinions of others” as her reason for stepping down.
Football: Earlier in August 2018, football referee Shiva Yari travelled to Norway to serve as a judge in that country’s league. Ali Khosravi, a football referee expert, described the incident as “brain drain, but this time in football refereeing.” (The state-run Pars Football – August 24, 2018)
Despite overcoming all the obstacles they face, and despite winning championships, they run into the wall of misogyny of the mullahs’ religious dictatorship which makes it impossible for Iranian female athletes to continue their professional life in Iran. Ultimately, they prefer to leave their homeland rather than continuing their careers under the mullahs’ rule.