For skydiver Bahareh Sassani, her favorite pastime begins with stepping out of a plane and falling thousands of feet toward her home country of Iran. That one small step for Sassani is proving to be one giant leap for womankind.
The 35-year-old accountant began hurling herself out of planes less than two years ago and has already completed over two hundred jumps. “Women should not be excluded from anything,” Sassani told Hurriyet Daily News.
In Iran, women are not provided the same opportunities as men and have had a lower legal status since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Iranian women battle for equality every day and sometimes resort to extreme measures, such as organizing a secret marathon.
Although skydiving is regarded as a masculine activity, Sassani is determined to continue doing what she loves despite any backlash she may receive. And, because there are no parachuting clubs in Iran, Sassani must practice the activity with the Iranian army, which notably does not permit women to enlist.
“When they organize jumps, the army invites everyone, including civilians,” Sassani explained. There is an elite police unit that practices parachuting, but Sassani only knows five other women who are qualified to participate.
Sassani is one of the few women in her country willing to take on an adventurous sport primarily reserved for male participation, being that Iran is incredibly conservative. Although she does not identify herself as a feminist, Sassani lives by her motto that “there is no difference between men and women and a woman can do anything she wants and succeed.”
Unlike her friends who chose to purchase cars and jewelry with their very first paychecks, Sassani invested her money in parachute practice. She had been motivated to take up skydiving as a way to combat her fear of heights and quickly overcame those fears by continuing to leap from new heights. According to Sassani, she loves the feeling of liberation that skydiving gives her.
“Men often avoid women like me, thinking we aren’t made for marriage because we are uncontrollable,” Sassani told Hurriyet. “But a small number do show an interest in what I’m doing. Even abroad, when I skydive, people are surprised. They think there are a lot of restrictions in Iran, but I explain to them that there are women doing motocross, flying planes and, yes, parachuting.”
Despite her country’s tendency to treat women as less dignified than men, Sassani is proud of her homeland and describes herself as a patriot. “I meet lots of cultures and beliefs abroad, but I’m a patriot and I love doing jumps in Iran more than anything.”
Sassani hopes that her story will inspire other women to follow their own dreams and take the leap toward self-liberation.
“I encourage all women to try this experience. It gives you the feeling you can do whatever you want.”
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