In Iran, we learned about parkour and other street sports through satellite TV [which is illegal, but widespread]
. Parkour has become popular in the past couple of years; I know of boys and girls who do it in my town, but also in many others, like in Rasht and along the Caspian sea [the sport is often practised on the beach]. It’s not organised – we don’t have teams, we just do this among friends.
Of course, it’s not easy for girls. While boys practise parkour in the streets, as it is meant to be done, girls often prefer to practise in less-busy places like beaches or natural parks, where there aren’t many people around. We fear getting in trouble with the police or basijis
[volunteer militiamen who act as the morality police], who could accuse us of copying a Western fad. We could also get in trouble for practising sports outside designated facilities.
“Due to our clothes, we can’t move quite as fast as boys”
Parkour is a not an easy sport to do while wearing a headscarf and a manto [a style of long tunic worn by many Iranian women] over pants. You have to worry about getting your manto caught on things and making you fall, so you can’t move quite as fast as boys. But we have no other choice.
Still, it’s a lot of fun. It’s all about speed – unlike the lives of young Iranian women, which sometimes feel like they’re frozen. I went to kung fu classes for a while, but I knew that I could never get very far in this sport in a sexist society with hard-line Islamic rules.
Iranian women are officially allowed to participate in all sports – except boxing and wrestling – but there are just so many restrictions. To join a team, you have to wear a hijab
, which isn’t exactly practical! Furthermore, sports facilities are not divided equally between men and women; women practise separately, often in much smaller spaces, if at all. Lastly, the media pays zero attention to women athletes. All of this discourages girls and women from participating in sports.