Women in Iran have been legally bound to cover their hair in public since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The rule applies to residents, visitors and tourists alike – however one sports star is refusing to play ball (so to speak).
Indian athlete Heena Sidhu is boycotting a shooting championship in Tehran over the host’s requirement that all female competitors wear a hijab.
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Olympic competitor was due to participate in the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship in the country’s capital in December.
However she announced this week that she is pulling out, saying that the enforced dress code was “not in the spirit of sportsmanship”.
“Im not a revolutionary. But I feel dat making it mandatory for even a sportsperson to wear hijab is not in the spirit of a Sport (sic),” the 27-year-old posted on Twitter.
“Im proud 2 b sportsperson coz ppl from diff cultures, backgrounds, sexes, ideologies, religion can cum 2gether n compete without biases (sic).”
This is d reason I compete n I cannot compete for anything lesser than this. But I wud also not have my personal opinion politicised (5)
— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
According to information on the championship’s official site, all athletes should conform to the “Iranian Dress Code” throughout their stay, including during competitions.
The nation’s mandatory hijab rule is enforced by the Morality Police, who fine or even jail women found to be breaching the law.
In other Middle Eastern countries, such as the UAE, the hijab is wore with pride by Muslim women but they face no legal obligations should they choose not to wear it.
“You follow your religion and let me follow mine,” the shooter told the Times of India. “I’ll not participate in this competition if you are going to force me to comply with your religious beliefs.”
— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) July 4, 2016
Her decision has divided commenters, with some supporting her decision while others believe she should comply with the local laws.
However Sidhu, who is the competition’s defending champion, wished the competing teams luck, and urged that her decision should not distract from the championship itself.