Cycling is a simple thing that both men and women can enjoy here in the US, but you might be surprised to find out that in Iran, it is considered a crime for a woman to ride a bicycle. Although there is no defined penalty for women who cycle, they can nevertheless be arrested for it.
According to The National, an analyst in Tehran said, “Those caught are usually punished for other things like flouting the dress code or being in the company of men they are not related to. They might be arrested and held for a few days and then released after pledging in writing not to repeat the offence.”
Despite the fact that religious leaders in Iran have been clear on their view that women who cycle somehow pose a threat to morality, women have been standing up to the rule. In 2016, an article in the Tehran Times – a pro-government news source – written by a female journalist said, “As long as there is no violation of the dress code, women should be free to ride bicycles on the street.”
Shortly after the article was written a fatwa – or ruling on a point of Islamic law – was released saying, “Women are allowed to ride bikes, [but] not in public.” This absurd edict triggered an immediate response from cyclists everywhere.
A woman and her daughter posted a Facebook video of them cycling, saying, “Cycling is part of our lives. We were here when we heard Khamenei’s fatwa banning women from cycling. We immediately rented two bicycles.”
Another woman shared, “When I was a child, my parents did not buy me a bicycle. They said a girl does not ride a bicycle. But I did not give up. I would jump on my youngest brother’s bicycle and ride it in small [alleys], even competing with other boys … I tell this story for those who think [they] can ban us from doing the sports we mostly enjoy with rumors and threats. We will not give up easily!”
All of these women are fighting for a right they should have, a right women elsewhere already possess. Every day these women risk being arrested just for riding a bike in public. However, others say that the biggest issue they see isn’t the authorities, but the dress code that they must follow while riding their bikes. Despite the heat, the dress code requires women to wear long sleeves, leggings, a headscarf, a helmet, and a skirt.
Negin, a 32-year-old woman from Tehran told The Guardian about her view that, “The biggest problem is not the authorities, it’s the dress code. On warm days, it can get so hot wearing long sleeves and long pants. Even worse are the men who look at you and make remarks. Iranians really have to start getting used to women cycling.”
Hopefully, because of the bravery of the women fighting for their right to cycle, they soon will.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter