In spite of the restrictions on women in conservative Iran, female athletes are distinguishing themselves in the fields of rock and ice climbing. Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh, 27, has been rock climbing since she was 13 years old, and competed in two World Cups held by the International Federation of Sport Climbing. She is ranked 21st worldwide in women’s speed climbing. In January, Iranian ice climber Zeinab Kobra Musavi ranked second in the Asian Championship and the World Cup, held in South Korea.
Training facilities in the Islamic Republic have separate hours for men and women to practice, and a conservative dress code must be maintained, including a head scarf and loose clothing. Women also can’t work with male coaches, denying them access to the most experienced trainers. Men and women can, however, climb together in the mountains, away from the strictest policing.
Esmaeilzadeh teaches rock climbing to other women, in order to finance her participation in international competitions. “For me, climbing rocks is part of life, a symbol of overcoming the barriers of life,” she told AP. “What I do is to change things that people think are norms.”