In Iran a religious law (fatwa) bans women from riding bikes in public, but recently Iranian women have taken a stand.
Although women are allowed to cycle in designated areas and it is suggested that there is no specific penalty for riding a bike female cyclists have been arrested for cycling in non-assigned areas.
Women caught cycling have reportedly been beaten for the ‘crime’ and the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has confirmed that women “are not allowed to cycle in public or in the presence of strangers”.
The issue of women cycling in Iran came to a head when the campaign for “car-free Tuesdays,” which encourages people to cycle instead of driving, saw women take part in it. Now Iranian women are taking to social media and sharing pictures with the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling and a collection of the images can be found on My Stealthy Freedom, a website that is campaigns for women in Iran to have the right to choose to wear the Hijab.
A video on the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page which shows a women and her mother riding bikes in protest has had over 14500 views the video can be found here.
In it the young woman and her mother say that when they heard of the fatwa banning women from cycling they, “immediately rented two bicycles to say we’re not giving up cycling. Its our absolute right and we are not giving it up”.
The spirit and determination of women like the two in the video reflects their feeling of indignation that Ali Khamenei’s fatwa, which was decreed on the 10th of September, is taking away the freedom that comes with cycling as according to the Iran Update, “Riding bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned.” The law has however greatly backfired as now more women than ever are cycling.
The general message given by the protests is that Iranian women will not give up cycling because there is nothing wrong with it, they do not care whether the country’s leader feels differently about the subject than themselves.
The fight of these women shows that sport is universal and cannot be stopped despite the confines that religion and state put upon it, but also shows that inequality still exists within the world and must still be fought against so everyone as human beings can do what they love.
About the Author: Luke is a second year Sports Journalism student at the University of Huddersfield who heads out on the trails whenever he gets home. You can follow him on twitter here.