Iranian athlete Parmida Ghassemi has made an extraordinary public display in defiance of the country’s mandatory hijab laws.
The hijab has been compulsory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but the country has been in chaos in recent weeks.
There has been nearly two months of protests since the death of Mahsa Amini, after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly breaking the nation’s strict dress code for women.
Ghassemi has now made one of the most powerful displays yet, with her act leaving officials and spectators stunned during the closing ceremony of a Persian Gulf Tirukman League final in Tehran.
A video from the moment shows several men in the crowd doing a double take as she walked off the podium and took her medal off.
The video shows Ghassemi allows her headscarf to fall backwards as she stands on a podium. One fellow competitor appears to attempt to put it back on, but Ghassemi makes no effort to hide her deliberate act.
The audio of the video shared by the Centre for Human Rights in Iran organisation shows people in the audience clapping and cheering as she stood with understated pride.
“Another Iranian athlete, Parmida Ghassemi, has removed her hijab to peacefully protest the state’s forced-hijab law,” the organisation wrote of the video on Twitter.
“These brave women face severe persecution in Iran for engaging in freedom of expression.”
Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad posted on Twitter it was “another humiliation for the Iranian regime”.
One version of the video has been viewed 200,000 times.
French journalist Mariam Pirzadeh posted on Twitter the “act of courage” was met with “stunned gazes from men”.
Washington-based journalist wrote: “In awe of her. In Tehran, at the archery competition, Iranian athlete Parmida Ghassemi takes off her hijab at the podium, for all to see.
“Astounding courage and grace. I hope she remains safe.”
Iran earlier this week denounced a skater after she attended a competition in Turkey without wearing an Islamic headscarf.
Niloufar Mardani, a member of Iran’s national speed skating team for more than a decade, on Sunday received an award at a race in Istanbul without a head covering and wearing black clothing featuring the word “Iran”, media outlets reported.
“Mardani took part in a skating competition in Turkey without authorisation,” the sports ministry said, quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency.
In Turkey, “this athlete was not wearing the outfit approved by the ministry and she has not been a member of the national team since last month,” the statement added.
The ministry said Mardani had taken part in a “personal” capacity in the Istanbul competition, an event in which the Iranian national team did not participate.
Iranian sportswomen are obliged to compete with headscarves, even during events held abroad.
In October, Iran’s Elnaz Rekabi took part in a climbing competition in Seoul wearing only a bandana on her head, causing a sensation.
On her return to Iran she apologised and said the hijab had fallen off by accident. But others suggested her gesture was deliberate.
— with AFP