By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
The secretary-general of Iran's National Olympic Committee has called on Muslim countries to protest the world soccer body's ban on head scarves for women during the Youth Olympic Games this summer.
The Iranian women's national football team plays in hijab, but the youth Olympic team is not allowed.
Bahram Afsharzadeh has said that FIFA's decision
to forbid the Iranian women's football team from wearing head scarves during the
games in Singapore is a violation of Muslims' rights and shows disregard for
"issues such as nationality, religion, and race."
The decision also creates "obstacles on their part in the way of women's progress," the hard-line Fars news agency quoted Afsharzadeh as saying.
RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on April 1 that FIFA said in a letter to the Iranian Football Federation that the Iranian women's team is not allowed to participate in the games in Singapore while wearing hijab, or head scarves.
Faride Shojaee, the vice president of the women's department of the Iranian Football Federation, said in response that FIFA officials had previously allowed Iranian athletes to participate in the Olympics with their Islamic hijab, "before denying them the right to do so in the letter they sent on Monday."
Shojaee said she would try to resolve the problem with FIFA officials at the organization's headquarters in Geneva next week. "FIFA officials have mistaken the religious hijab for national dress, claiming that if they were allowed to participate with Islamic hijab, other participants might also demand to appear in their respective traditional costumes," she said.
The president of the Iranian Football Federation, Ali Kafashian, also called on the world football governing body to reconsider its decision.
Kashefian is quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying that "due to [their] religious beliefs, the Iranian women's team will participate in the competition only if they are allowed to observe the Islamic dress code."
FIFA says on its website that "the player's equipment must not carry any political, religious, or personal statements," and that "all items of clothing or equipment other than the basic must be inspected by the referee and determined not to be dangerous."
The ruling suggests that FIFA considers playing soccer while wearing the hijab to be potentially dangerous to the player.
In 2007, an 11-year-old girl was not allowed to play in a soccer game in Canada because she was wearing the hijab. The Quebec Soccer Association said the ban on the hijab is to protect children from being accidentally strangled.
The Islamic hijab became compulsory for Iranian girls and women following the 1979 revolution. While many Iranian women support the hijab, others believe that it is a violation of their rights and that they should be able to have the freedom to choose what they wear. They also say that the hijab limits their ability to take part in some sports and activities.
In a 2003 commentary for "The Guardian" newspaper, well-known Iranian-born graphic novelist and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi described the compulsory Islamic hijab as an "act of violence against women."
"Forcing women to put a piece of material on their head is an act of violence, and even if you get used to it after a while, the violence of insisting that women must cover their heads in public with a small piece of cloth does not diminish," Satrapi wrote.
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