Niloufar Ardalan, the 30-year-old captain of the Iranian women’s soccer team who is widely considered to be the best player in the country, will not be competing in the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship in Malaysia on Thursday because her husband refuses to give her permission.
Iranian law states that a woman must obtain her husband’s consent to apply for or renew her passport, and Ardalan’s husband will not sign renewal papers because he wants her to be home for their seven-year-old son’s first day of school.
“I wish authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations,” Ardalan, who is known as “Lady Goal,” reportedly said in an interview.
“These games were very important to me. As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the game], rather than traveling for leisure and fun.”
In 2005, Ardalan succeeded in petitioning to become one of the first women to attend a men’s national team soccer match.
The Washington Post reports:
Unfortunately, not much has changed in Iran in the last 10 years. Despite promises to ease restrictions, women are still banned from attending men’s sporting events in the country. In some cases, the country has even arrested women who tried to do so. The most famous example came last year when Ghoncheh Ghavami went to jail for five months after attempting to attend a men’s volleyball game.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Shadi Sadr, director of Justice for Iran, said Ardalan’s situation emphasizes the need to reform the travel law:
“This just shows to what extent the law can impact a woman’s life,” she said. “Even if a woman reaches the highest ranks in politics, sports, or culture, she still needs her husband’s consent for one of her most basic rights — traveling abroad.”
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Pictured: Members of the Iran national women’s soccer team. Image via AP.