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Muslim Women In Iran Take Up Rugby

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Muslim women in Iran take up rugby[using large font size is not allowed]


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In the Islamic Republic of Iran, which like all other Muslim states is allegedly accused of mistreating women, rugby is now the new sport for female athletes.


Agence France Presse (AFP) carried out interviews with several Iranian women who joined Tehran’s rugby team, surprising many in the Islamic Republic because rugby is one of the toughest sports.


24-year-old Elham Shahsavari does not mind following the Islamic dress code while training for her favorite sport.


"In early 2006, Gorgan University advised me to play rugby because of my physical powerâ€, said Shahsavari, who is fit for the sport that might not be a normal choice for Muslim women.


"Rugby Union was just my thing," she added.


Even though sports are not popular in Iran, the number of women playing sports and physical activities in general is growing.


It all began in the 1990s when Iranian women started exploring their sports’ options, an initiative highly encouraged by Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of then-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.


With simple sports such as shooting, women started to practice physical activities but now tougher sports, such as rowing, martial arts and rugby, are also attracting many Iranian women.


While Tehran’s rugby team was formed in 2003, other female teams exist in the country among which are Golestan, Kerman, Kermanshah, Semnan, North Khorasan, Shiraz and Isfahan.


In an effort to enjoy sports without comprising their religious duties, female rugby players in Iran wear the “manghnaeh“, which covers the head, neck and shoulders, as well as a loose blue waistcoat, long-sleeved dark T-shirts and loose tracksuit trousers.


Despite the fact that this might not be the most suitable outfit for such a tough sport, women forget about this once they get to run their way around the playground looking for the stress-free feeling that follows their training.


"I am extraordinarily interested in rugby and it does not matter what I wear. It is not uncomfortableâ€, 16-year-old Sahar Azizi told the AFP.


Pouran Taherabadi, the mother of another 16-year-old player, Azadeh is encouraging her daughter to play rugby.


“It is good for us that she has the chance here to discharge her energy," said Pouran Taherabadi. "I have nothing against it."


“This is not a violent sport for women at all, despite what people think. We need to discharge our energy," said Zahra Nouri, the team's captain, who is a student of mechanics at Qazvin University west of Tehran.


Meanwhile, Alierza Iraj, the team’s male coach says that he has to keep his distance while training the girls.


The 37-year old coach says he instructs one of the players to demonstrate how to grab an opponent rather than carrying any move himself.



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