Former world number one, Heena Sidhu has withdrawn from the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship in Iran scheduled for December. The event is to be held in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Heena, who is a two-time Olympian, in a series of tweets shared that she had pulled out of the competition because of the compulsory hijab rule for all women athletes.
Hijab is a veil that covers the head and the chest of women and is primarily donned by Muslim women in public and in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family.
Talking about her decision, she tweeted:
I am proud to be a sportsperson because people from different cultures, backgrounds, sexes, ideologies, religion can come together and compete without biases. Sport is an exhibition of sheer human effort and performance. It is our ability to dig deep for strength, will power and determination. This is the reason I compete and I cannot compete for anything lesser than this.
According to her, making the hijab mandatory for all the sportswomen is “not in the spirit of sports.”
The hijab was made compulsory in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution or the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that marked the overthrow of the US-supported Pahlavi dynasty by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution.
Though Heena wrote that she is not a revolutionary, she has definitely made a radical move.
When a woman has the choice to wear hijab, shouldn't she also have the choice not to wear it? Especially in a sporting competition where women from across the globe will participate, does making the hijab compulsory for all women make sense?
Heena made it to the qualification round for 10m women’s air pistol in the Rio Olympics and finished 14th. In the 2013 World Cup, she won a gold too.
It is encouraging to see that her decision has received support.
“I thank the NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) for respecting my views and I would also like to wish luck to our team competing in Iran. Let's concentrate on competition than the hijab,” she said.
For Heena, it may be a personal choice, but it sets a precedent.
By withdrawing from the competition, Heena has shown that if women want, no one can stop them from exercising their choices.
It is time to set sportswomen free from cultural and social norms, to not make them compulsorily wear a hijab or worry about their hemlines and fashion trends. It is time to simply let them be.