TEHRAN — The first snow of the winter season fell in Tehran this week, and to many young Iranians who waited for almost one year, it is time to ski again. Iran is home to numerous mountainous regions, many of which are perfect for skiing, and are gaining increasing popularity among foreign visitors.
Skiing in Iran
Today, 13 ski resorts operate in Iran, the most famous being Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak, all within one to three hours traveling time from the capital Tehran. Iran’s Tochal resort is the world’s fifth-highest ski resort at over 3,730 m at its highest 7th station. The resort was completed in 1976 shortly before the Islamic Revolution which overthrow of the Shah and established Iran as a theocratic state.
However, Iranian female ski bums who are planning to ski down the icy slope this year, would be in for a surprise. A police circular, reported Thursday on the pro-government Etedaal news agency, states that women and girls are no longer allowed to ski in the absence of a husband, father or brother. In short, women are only allowed to hit the slopes only if they are accompanied by a male guardian.
Since Sharia law was instituted in 1979, Iran has a brutal history of suppressing women’s rights. During a UN Human Rights Commission meeting last month, expert Cornelis Flinterman was upset by Iran’s lack of progress on improving women’s rights, “I don’t see any concrete measures taken in Iran to improve women’s rights. It seems that there continue to be discriminatory laws against women.”
The World Economic Forum’s 2010 Gender Gap report ranked Iran 123 out of 134 countries for equalities between women and men on economic and political participation, access to healthcare and education.
Iran’s radical clerics are attempting to roll back reforms enacted under former president Mohammad Khatami, who governed Iran in 1997-2005 and who is deemed a reformist. The current government says those reforms led to a lack of observance of religious dress codes, and the erosion of religious faith among the people.
Iran Clerics: We ban all women from skiing alone because they don’t have the mental capacity to do it without a male guardian… in fact, women must not have any sort of freedom!
Iran’s ski resorts became something of a haven for young Iranian females from the strict Islamic dress code, and from laws of gender segregation. Young people would mix and meet on the mountains, while some women would ski without their head scarves in the resorts of Dizin and Shemshak, known for their abundance of fresh powder. This increasingly irked Iran’s clerics.
Monitoring the miles-long slopes however, proved difficult for the Iranian authorities. With the laws, it is a puzzle how officers are going to pursue the young skiers, most of whom are more experienced on the slopes than the religious police themselves.