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Iran's Judiciary Backpedals On Banning Cycling For Women

Iranian women on "Road without cars - Family cycling" initiative days. August 2016. File photo

The Islamic Republic judiciary spokesman says that the order issued by the city of Isfahan' prosecutor to ban cycling for women has been misunderstood.

Speaking on Tuesday, Gholam Hossein Esmaeili reiterated that women’s cycling is not banned, provided the religious rules are respected.

Earlier on May 14, the prosecutor in Iran's third largest city had announced that women had been banned from cycling in public, saying it was "haram," or prohibited under Islam.

Ali Esfahani had gone further by warning that police would confiscate the bikes of those who resisted, adding that repeat offenders would be subject to "Islamic punishment," without elaborating.

Based on the law and fatwas issued by senior Shi'ite clergies, Esfahani had argued, "Women are banned from riding bicycles in public places."

Although Esfahani had not referred to any exceptions, judiciary spokesman insisted that Isfahan's prosecutor had not meant to completely ban women from cycling.

Women in Iran had long assumed that they could ride bicycles in public if they respected Iran's strict dress code, which requires women to cover their hair and fully body in public.

In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to crush the notion with a fatwa explicitly banning women from cycling in public, but it was not strictly enforced.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the clerical establishment has enforced Islamic laws denying women equal rights in divorce and inheritance, prohibiting women from traveling abroad without the permission of a male relative, and attending men's sports events.

Meanwhile, Iran has a women national cycling team that competes in public places.

As recently as April, Iranian cyclist Ms. Somayeh Yazdani became the first Iranian woman to win the bronze medal in the Asian Cycling Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.