Iranian Authorities Block Attempts by Gold Medalist’s Husband to Stop Her From Competing Abroad
For the second time, Iranian authorities have allowed two-time Iranian Paralympic gold medalist Zahra Nemati to travel abroad to compete despite her estranged husband’s attempts to force her to stay home.
According to Article 18 of Iran’s Passport Law, a married woman needs her husband’s permission to travel abroad.
“You cannot do something for selfish reasons to endanger the interests of the nation,” said Nemati in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 8, 2017. “When I travel to other countries, I am representing the disabled women of my country and I bring home medals.”
“My husband’s wish certainly won’t affect me because I don’t travel for personal reasons,” she added. “It’s for a goal higher than a couple’s marital issues.”
On May 8, 2017, Nemati’s husband Roham Shahabipour told the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that he had asked the Passport Office not to issue an exit visa to Nemati after she asked for a divorce.
“After the Paralympic Olympics in Rio, Zahra left the house for some reason and has refused to come back home despite many appeals,” said Shahabipour. “She has even asked for a divorce, so I banned her from traveling so she won’t be able to compete in any tournaments abroad.”
Nemati, who won the gold medal in women’s archery at the London (2012) and Rio (2016) Paralympics, told CHRI that her husband had also attempted to force her to stay home before the Rio games, but the authorities allowed her to travel for competitions, including to an event in Switzerland in March 2017.
“My husband unfortunately banned me from traveling before the Rio games and I was very demoralized when I got there. I didn’t say anything because I don’t like to talk about my personal life,” she said. “Of course, Mr. Shahabipour can say anything he wants, but I can only hope that future decisions by the authorities will not be influenced by his words.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Nemati became the second woman after Iran’s 1979 revolution to lead the Iranian team at the Olympics’ opening ceremony.
In 2015, Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of Iran’s women’s national futsal team, was issued a special permit by Iran’s judiciary to compete in the Asian championships in Malaysia despite her husband’s attempts to make her stay home.
“I’m not going abroad for fun,” Ardalan tweeted in May 2015. “My goal is to bring home glory for my national flag and my country. I’m a woman and a mother and I won’t forego my rights for being either one.”