Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of Iran’s women’s soccer team, will miss the opportunity to travel with her team to Malaysia next week for an international, indoor tournament. Ardalan is unable to leave Iran at all considering she doesn’t have a passport.
Her husband, sports journalist Mahdi Toutounchi, refuses to sign paperwork to allow Ardalan to renew her documents. Iranian law grants male citizens the right to prevent their wives from making many legal decisions, including the ability to exit the country.
Ardalan has been a leader in women’s rights advocacy throughout Iran. Recently, she hasn’t kept quiet around the subject. After her husband refused to allow her to leave, Ardalan released a statement regarding the situation.
“These games were very important to me,” Ardalan said. “As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than traveling for leisure and fun.”
Throughout the country of Iran, women and men face different circumstances in terms of sports. Women are forbidden by law to attend men’s sporting events (although Ardalan made headline news for doing so back in 2005 after petitioning the Iranian government). They are also required to wear the hijab at all times unless the stadium is all female. Women may not even attend public events of any sort (sports included) if spectators include unrelated men.
“I wish authorities would create [laws] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights,” Ardalan said about restrictions placed on women athletes.
Ardalan’s husband refused to allow her to play for fear she would miss her son’s first day of school.