What It's Like To Be A Woman In Iran

One of the biggest barriers facing the professional development of Iranian women is their lack of freedom of movement. Although women can excel in areas such as professional sports, it is harder for them to travel and compete as they need a man’s permission to do so. 

Human Rights Watch describes how even when a wife’s permission to travel is written into a marriage contract, her husband’s written consent must be provided with any application for a passport. Furthermore, if a wife succeeds in gaining his permission, her husband can still withdraw it at any time, for any reason. There have been occasions when this has been lifted for emergency reasons. However, the general trend has been to push for more restrictions, such as in 2012, when then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed an amendment to the law restricting the freedom of movement for unmarried as well as married women, ensuring that they would need their “legal guardian” to grant permission first.

These prohibitions have notably applied to Iranian sports stars, such as members of the women’s football team. The team captain, Niloufar Ardalan, was forbidden by her husband in 2015 from competing abroad. As a result, she was unable to compete in a tournament in Malaysia. Two years later, Zhara Nemati, a member of the national paralympic team, was also banned from traveling by her estranged husband. In both cases, the travel bans were loosened, but only after an appeal to the government.