Meet Iranian swimmer, Elham Asghari. Only a few weeks ago on June 11, she swam along the Caspian Coast – 20 kilometres, eight hours, and a record-breaking milestone for an Iranian woman in those waters.
She swam in a wetsuit and swimming cap, covered again with a head scarf and body-covering cape. She also made sure that she was swimming along a woman’s beach, with several female witnesses but where no man could possibly see her. But now she has been told by officials that they cannot register this record, because her attire was too revealing, or in any case that an official women’s costume for open-water swimming had not yet been designed!
Wow! Imagine swimming such a harrowing distance with extra layers of weight, after taking every precaution to ensure she was complying with Islamic law – and still being dismissed like this. Doesn’t it just raise your feminist hackles?
I’m not taking a dig at the Muslim religion, that’s the last thing I’d want to do. And there are many arguments for covering up that I prefer to those for baring all. But modesty in dress is not even the issue here as clearly, Asghari was well-clad. It’s more the fact that an amazing achievement will not be recognised for a seemingly ridiculous reason!
Asghari isn’t giving in. She has been speaking to Iranian media and sports bodies, developed a social media following and is determined to get her record. As an Iranian sports commentator put it, “The persistence of this swimmer is not surprising for someone who can swim for 20 kilometers. It shows she has self-confidence and a strong will, which is commendable. She stood by her words and managed to inform others.”
What do you think? Is this a cultural situation that we should try to understand, or a black-and-white case of injustice?