An Iranian soccer player claimed that the federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran removed her from the national soccer team for a reason that has dismayed many. Shiva Amini alleged that she was booted from the team for not wearing the hijab, which is mandatory for women in Iran. Amini discussed the incident in an interview with Masih Alinejad of My Stealthy Freedom, a Facebook page that documents Iranian women rebelling against the state-enforced hijab by posting photos of themselves without the veil.
Amini told Alinejad that during her stay in a country abroad, she had played soccer with male players and did not wear the hijab during a friendly match. She also said that she had worn a pair of shorts instead of apparel that covered her entire body, as is custom in Iran. Another completely innocuous photo Amini posted on her account showed her directly facing the camera, again, without the hijab on.
According to Amini, the Iranian Futsal Federation — which is responsible for overseeing the women's team — took notice of the photo, as well as another shot of Amini where she is seen without the veil. According to Amini, the friendly matches she had played with men were not part of any official games where she would have been representing Iran.
"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," she said.
Amini has been playing soccer since she was 14 years old. Alinejad, the creator of My Stealthy Freedom, told New York Times' Women in the World that her Facebook page is dedicated to "[exposing] the hypocrisy that the [Iranian] regime officials resort to with regards to compulsory veil." According to Alinejad, she took it upon herself to interview Amini so that the world could see how women's civil liberties are frequently compromised in Iran.
Amini's case is not the only one covered by Alinejad. Her Facebook page shares many photos of Iranian women choosing not to wear the veil as a form of protest against the regime.
The issue here is not the veil per se, but rather how the Iranian government requires all women to wear it. The majority of Islamic countries do not enforce the hijab for women. Alinejad makes that distinction clear to her readers. Alinejad's point is that wearing the hijab on one's own volition is not oppressive, but to be forced by the government to wear it is a violation of a woman's right to mobility and visibility.
For now, Amini, who said she carried no hatred for her country and wished to remain in her homeland, remains removed from the Iranian women's national soccer team. Hopefully, pressure from the Iranian civil society and the international community will move the Iranian regime to reconsider its repressive attitude and policy.