In defiance of Iran’s controversial hijab rule for all women athletes, Indian pistol shooter Heena Sinhu has pulled out of the Asian Airgun shooting championship that is set to be hosted in Tehran in December.
The former world number one Olympian had written to the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) about her decision of withdrawing from the competition, and on Saturday she took to twitter to confirm the reports. In a series of tweets, she explained her decision to withdraw, arguing that the enforcement of the hijab was not in the spirit of sport.
There have been reports abt me skipping the Asian air weapon competition in Iran due to their practice of making women wear hijab. (1)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
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. (2)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
Im proud 2 b sportsperson coz ppl from diff cultures, backgrouds, sexes, ideologies, religion can cum 2gether n compete without biases (3)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
Sport is an exhibition of sheer Human Effort nPerformance. Our ability to dig deep for Strength, Will Power and Determination. (4)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
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
Many social media users have come out in support of Siduh, and what they see as a move that champions women’s rights
Absolutely with you @HeenaSidhu10. Forcing athletes to adhere to local dress restrictions at an international meet is poor.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 29, 2016
Kudos Heena Sidhu for refusing to wear 'hijab' in Iran. Reigning champion refused to bow down to extremists https://t.co/aWib7p2XBo— Manak Gupta (@manakgupta) October 29, 2016
However, Sidhu’s decision has also been criticised, with some accusing her of holding double standards and arguing that she should be respectful of the cultures and traditions of other countries:
Inspired by Heena Sidhu I have decided that I won't visit India until beef ban is lifted. We need to take a stand against forced religion.— Monkey Bath (@brumbyOz) October 29, 2016
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, wearing a headscarf is strictly enforced by guidance patrols. Women who do not wear a hijab, or are considered to be wearing 'bad hijab' by having some of their hair showing, face punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment.
This is not the first time Sidhu has reportedly objected to the enforcement of the hijab in Iran. Two years ago she reportedly withdrew from a championship held in the country for the same reason. Sidhu is also not the first woman competitor to challenge the hijab ban. Earlier this month, champion chess-player, Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, announced that she will boycott February’s Women's World Chess Championship in Iran because the players will have to wear hijabs.