Ali Moradi, the head of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation, has announced that women weightlifters from the country can officially compete in the sport.
“This is a good opportunity for our country because the Iranian women have the potential to win medals,” he was quoted in a report from Al Bawaba.
In the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Turkmenistan the Muslim women participated in the weightlifting competition. I think the women have no problem to participate in weightlifting wearing the hijab. – Ali Moradi
This statement makes it a little unclear as to whether or not female weightlifters will be obliged to wear a hijab, an item of clothing that usually covers the head and chest.
Iran is an extremely strong performer in weightlifting, and several of the nation’s athletes, like Kianoush Rostami and Sohrab Moradi, hold world records. Now that the Iran Weightlifting Federation’s world class coaching can be directed toward female competitors, there’s no telling what kind of records we’ll see come out of Iran in the upcoming years.
Navigating cultural differences has always been an important component of international sports, and it’s an area in which traditional attitudes toward gender roles and modesty have caused tension. Fortunately, different sides of the debate have learned to compromise over the years.
In 2011, after American weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah lobbied for a change in policy, the International Weightlifting Federation made the decision to allow body-length unitards to be worn by competitors who wished to cover their arms, legs, and/or hair. (Previously, it was required that knees and elbows be visible.) FIFA lifted their ban on hijabs in 2014 while FIBA, the international basketball federation, lifted their ban in May of this year.
Tensions between sports and religious conservatism still exist, of course, and traditional expectations in many cultures — not only in the “Arab world” — focus on women’s roles as wives and mothers to the extent that they are discouraged from competing in athletics.
But progress is undoubtedly being made. Since 2016 we’ve seen the United States’ first Olympian compete in a hijab (New Jersey-born fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad), FIBA allowed women to compete covered, Nike announced their upcoming Pro Hijab, and now Iran is allowing women to compete in Olympic weightlifting.
We’re liking the way this is headed.