Iranian sports authorities have banned a female billiards champion from competition, accusing her of un-Islamic conduct.
Akram Mohammadi Amini, the first Iranian female billiards player to win an international medal, has been banned from competition for two years for allegedly violating Islamic dress code and smoking during a recent tournament. The decision was issued by the Islamic Republic's Billiards, Bowling, and Boxing Federation, which has also barred Amini from entering sports arenas for two years. The federation says Ms. Amini has the right to appeal the decision.
Reacting to the ruling, Amini tweeted sarcastically, “Nothing surprises me anymore. Here [in Iran] the truth is abundant along with justice.”
The 9-ball pool medalist went on to criticize the hearing process.
"When they did not allow my attorney to attend the hearings, I protested, insisting the proceedings have no legal basis if I’m not allowed a lawyer. They told me I can leave if I don’t recognize the legality of the hearings. I asked for the evidence of my wrongdoing; they just said there was a report of misconduct and I am duty bound to respond to the charges.”
Amini says she was not even told the date her alleged misconduct took place.
"I thought there would be a session where I could confirm or deny the charges, but to my surprise, the verdict was issued within few hours," Amini said, adding, "I have written several letters to the Ministry of Sport, but have not received a response."
Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Amini dismissed accusations she flouted Islamic dress code, saying, "Such charges are ridiculous since we [Iranian female billiards players] have pre-approved outfits we wear for games."
Amini won a bronze medal at the Single Women 9-Ball Pool Games in the United Arab Emirates in October 2016, clenching the first ever medal for Iran in the women’s division of the games.
In April 2017, the New York-based Center For Human Rights In Iran (CHRI) reported that a number of Iranian female billiard players have recently been temporarily banned from competing for “violating the Islamic code of conduct.”
Iranian authorities have repeatedly penalized female athletes in the past for not wearing their hijab at international sporting events. All women in Iran are legally required to observe Islamic dress code, including a head covering.
In February 2017, 18-year-old female chess player Dorsa Derakhshani was expelled from Iran’s national team for not wearing the hijab when she competed at an international chess match in Gibraltar. She joined the U.S. national team later that year.
After the downfall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iranian women were banned from taking part in international sports competitions for more than ten years. When the ban was lifted, women shooters became the first female athletes to represent the Islamic Republic abroad.