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Samira Zargari: Iranian women’s ski coach barred from travel by her husband

Samira Zargari, an Iranian women’s ski coach, has been barred from traveling to the world championships by Iranian authorities following a request by her husband.

Zaragari, who had been planning to fly to Italy, where the championships are being held, was prohibited from traveling after she denied her husband’s request that she consented to a divorce.

Under Iranian law, a husband has the ability to forbid their wife from leaving the country and can confiscate passports unless their marriage contract “makes clear that the husband has already relinquished such power.”

The Iranian ‘Passport Law’, introduced in 1973, effectively grants husbands the ability to notify the government and prevent their wives from travelling. Also, under article 19 of this law:

 “married women require the permission of their husband (or, in an emergency situation, of the local prosecutor) to apply for a passport”

According to Articles 1005 and 1114 of the Iranian Civil Code, men also retain the exclusive right to determine the place of their wives’ residence.

This is not the first time a female athlete has been prohibited from leaving Iran by her husband. In September 2015, Niloufar Ardalan, captain of the Iranian women’s football team, was prohibited from leaving the country by her husband following claims that the games coincided with their son’s first day at school.

In May 2017, Zahra Nemati, a Paralympic archer, was also stopped from leaving the country by her husband following his requests that the Passport Office do not issue her an exit visa after she asked for a divorce.

Women’s rights have remained heavily restricted in Iran following the 1979 revolution, after which mandatory veiling, public dress code of females and other legislation furthering gender-based inequality was introduced.

Authorities have failed to criminalise gender-based violence, including early and forced marriages, repeatedly watering down bills aimed at protecting women against such violence.

Iranian authorities have also enforced a crackdown against women’s rights advocates who protest against discriminatory forced veiling laws, charging many with “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution”.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer, is one of the most prominent victims of the regime’s attacks on women’s rights activists, receiving a sentence of 38 years and six months in prison, and 148 lashes for representing women arrested for protesting against forced veiling laws.

This belligerent attitude toward women’s rights is typified by the Iranian regime’s refusal to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in its 2020 Universal Periodic Review.

In a report published on 15 February 2021, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, expressed alarm and concern regarding the status of women’s rights in Iran, stating that he:

“remains deeply concerned at the persistent discrimination against women and girls in public and private life, enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and within law and practice.”

Preventing Samira Zargari from traveling to attend the skiing world championships is just the latest example of the standardised and systematic violation of women’s rights in Iran. The international community must do more to ensure that sufficient pressure is placed on the regime to introduce reform, and that the rights of all Iranian citizens are respected equally.

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