A top soccer player who once played on the Iranian women’s national team says she has been barred from ever returning to the squad or from landing a job as a coach after government officials found out she played in an exhibition game while not wearing a hijab — during a trip outside the country — and played alongside male players. In an interview with Masih Alinejad of the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, longtime player Shiva Amini said she was visiting Switzerland and Italy and “playing in friendly games” when the offense occurred. An innocuous photo snapped in Zurich that she posted on Instagram showed her heading a soccer ball and in the image, no veil was covering her hair and she was wearing shorts, another offense in the eyes of officials at the Iranian Futsal Federation, which oversees the women’s team. She’s been banned from playing or coaching in Iran’s domestic league.
They “were not even official games where I had to represent the Islamic Republic,” Amini told Alinejad. “However, it seems that those games drew the ire of the officials within the Islamic Republic for two reasons. First of all, I happened to be unveiled and was wearing shorts. Secondly, I was playing with boys in a team. The officials of the Iranian Futsal Federation told me, “When you are a member of an official team, you do not have the right to play without the veil even in non-official games abroad. We are living in Islamic country. Why did you have to play with boys? You would have been disqualified from the team even if you had played with boys wearing a veil in Iran as well.” Amini has devoted the last 13 years of life to her soccer career, four years of which she was a member of the national women’s team.
In an email to Women in the World, Alinejad said, “At My Stealthy Freedom, we have been striving to expose the hypocrisy that the regime officials resort to with regards to compulsory veil. When you talk to the officials in interviews, they often downplay the importance of the compulsory veil by saying, ‘This is an unimportant issue. We have bigger issues in Iran.’ Yet, the case of Shiva and those of many other Iranian women who have seen their dreams shattered because of the compulsory veil depict a different picture.”
She continued, adding, “If the compulsory veil is such an unimportant issue, then why would people like Shiva be disqualified at the drop of a hat despite [after] having devoted 13 years of her life to this sport with the hope of bringing a medal to Iran? Why would the Iranian government spend huge sums of money and arrest and/or verbally warn millions of women annually? In 2014 alone, the official statistics of the government indicate that 3.6 million were arrested/warned/fined for their attire.”
This is not the first time the Iranian soccer team has faced static over the headscarf. In 2012, the Iranian women’s team was barred by FIFA from competing in the Olympics because they are forced to wear the hijab. At the time, the garment was deemed “an infringement of the rules of the game,” according to an Associated Press report. And as Alinejad pointed out, government officials dictating what women wear is par for the course in Iran. Most recently, Iranian state TV went to the ludicrous extreme of crudely Photoshopping more clothes onto Charlize Theron in a clip from the Oscars that was shown on the news there.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to make it clear that Amini was not a member of the national team at the time she was suspended.