With bold brown eyes, smooth tan skin, and a flawless athletic frame, it is hard not to notice her on the soccer field. Her determination is revealed with every kick of her foot. She is not an average person; Niloufar Ardalan is known as the “Lady Goal” due to her swift moves, talent on the field, and the goals and victories that she has helped win for her team.
Niloufar, an aspiring and courageous young Iranian woman, is a dedicated and talented player for the soccer team “Zob Ahan Banovan.” Despite all the restrictions she has faced in Iran, including the imposed Hijab that she must wear even when she plays sports, she has made it to Iran’s national soccer team, not just as a player, but as a captain.
Playing on the national team is the ultimate dream of any woman who plays soccer. She is quite close and hopes that soon she will live her dream. She is only a few steps away from experiencing the achievement of her lifetime. But there is one stumbling block that prevents her from reaching her life-awaited goal.
With her enthusiasm on the field and willingness to do whatever it takes to win, many might assume that an injury has slowed her attempts. But no, it has nothing to do with an athletic injury. Instead, it is because of Islam.
Using the Islamic legal code of Iran, her husband refuses to allow Niloufar to leave the country and play on the national soccer team. Yes, you read it correctly. Such a successful adult woman, who is a hero for many girls and women, is forbidden from joining the national soccer team because her husband does not feel like giving her permission to leave the borders for only a few days.
As a mother of a seven-year-old son, and a woman who is thirty years old, a wife, and a successful soccer player, Niloufar still needs her husband’s signature to leave the country.
Niloufat explained the reason in an interview to Nasimonline: “This is the first Asian soccer tournament. I have done my training well under the supervision of Ms Soleimani. But due to my husband’s opposition, I will miss the matches.”
And what does the management of Iran’s national team or the government do to help such a female hero? One word: Nothing. They are basically in line with the idea that a husband should have full control over his wife. In fact, the ruling clerics and mullahs established such Islamic laws in the first place. Winning a gold medal for the national team is not crucial to the regime. What is significant for the religious and political establishment is to subjugate women and have power over them. What is critical for them is to send a message to women that no matter how hard you try to be successful, you are still at the mercy of men.
Previously, the government’s imposition of the hijab on the national female soccer players prevented the team from playing in the semi-finals of the Olympics in London.
This subjugation is totally legalized under the Islamic law of Iran. To defend Islam, Western or Eastern Muslim scholars would argue that this a problem of patriarchy or the husband and it does not have to do anything with Islam. Really? The only law that the husband is using to prevent his wife, a star soccer player, from achieving her goals, is Sharia law and the Islamic code, which gives him the right to forbid his wife from traveling.
Faced with the prospect of losing her lifetime chance to play in Iran’s national soccer team, Niloufar pleaded with the government, to no avail. “I wish authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations,” she lamented. “These games were very important to me. As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than traveling for leisure and fun.”
Under the religious legal code of the Islamic Republic, a married woman absolutely must have her husband’s express approval (signature) to obtain a passport. Even, if she has a passport, her husband can request that the government seize his wife’s passport at any time and forbid her from leaving the country. The husband can also prevent his wife from working. According to the Article 1117 of Civil Code: “The husband can prevent his wife from an occupation or technical profession which is incompatible with the family’s interests or the dignity of him or his wife.” Husbands often use these Islamic codes to punish their wives and have control over them.
Her husband’s justification is that he wants his wife to stay at home and take care of their child. The most baffling aspect of all of this is that, if this issue occurred with a man and he could not leave the country (because for example he has not finished his military service yet), the government would find a way to allow him to leave and play for the national team. In fact it happens regularly. But since this is not happening to a man, but to a woman, the regime sits idly-by watching the husband abuse and exploit his wife by wielding the government’s Islamic laws.
Hopefully one day justice will be brought to these heroic women.