|In support of Elham- From a Facebook page|
32-year-old Elham Asghari is a kick-ass Iranian swimmer who just broke a breaststroke record by swimming 20 kilometers in around 8 hours or so. Unfortunately, she lives in a country that has refused to acknowledge her record-breaking swim because her swimming attire did not pass Islamic muster. Oh she was amply covered from head to toe- she wore a wet suit, a swim cap PLUS a headscarf, goggles, AND some kind of cape thingy that covered her whole body. She also swam along a gender segregated beach, so no men could see her. But since the sports ministry said that the shape of her body could be seen as she emerged from the water, she was docked 2 kilometers, and then they outright refused to recognize her swim at all.
"That day, my attire covered my body. I had seven witnesses. I swam at a women's beach. No man was present there," she says. "But now they've made an Islamic objection against my attire. Those who cannot swim 20 meters themselves have taken my 20-kilometer record hostage.”She appealed to Deputy Minister of Women's Physical Education, Marzieh Akbarabadi, to no avail. Akbarabadi told her she should switch sports.
20 Kilometers is quite a feat considering her cumbersome "attire", which when wet weighs a good 6 kilograms, and hurts her body, so she has taken to social media to fight for what is rightfully hers.
Women in certain Islamic countries, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, are very limited in the kinds of sports in which they are allowed to compete. Iran allows women to play archery, Ninjitsu, Sanshou, soccer and target shooting, but they can only wear uniforms that have been approved. Apparently, they have not yet approved an official open water swimming outfit.
According to RFE/RL, under Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reign, the restrictions on women's participation in sports have increased.
Elham will continue to fight for her right to swim and be recognized. Maybe things will change under president-elect Hassan Rohani's leadership.
She has posted a video on YouTube, in her swimming attire, thanking her fans for their support and encouragement.