For years it has been simply impossible for women in Iran to participate in numerous kinds of sports, including swimming.
Even though Iranian women outnumber men at universities and have made strides in culture and arts, they are still struggling to win their right to practice various kinds of sports in the country.
This is mostly due to extremely strict clothing rules and negative views that many conservative religious authorities have when it comes to females practicing professional sports or even being spectators at competitions.
Many Iranian women have constantly tried to challenge this current state of affairs, some with success.
Meet Behnaz Shafiei
“Before it was illegal, but today there are around a dozen women that ride professionally”.
Behnaz Shafiei says these words with pride, having spent years riding her motorbike in secret, often dressed as a man.
But after the government allowed women to train on private circuits around six months ago, Shafiei is no longer forced to do that nor are the other “dozen women that ride professionally” in Iran.
Even though Shafiei’s story ends somewhat positively (tracks are still segregated) many other sports remain restricted to women in Iran.
Just a month ago, 18-year-old chess grand master Dorsa Derakhshani was barred from competing as part of Iran’s national chess team for not wearing a hijab.
With the current laws and restrictions that many women still face in Iran, sports remain off limits for a vast majority.
However, in defying restrictions, it is women, like Shafiei who are paving the way for others.
And by elbowing their way into what is largely seen as male-dominated sports such as motocross biking, they give Iranian women much needed hope.