Female Iranian skater appears on podium without a hijab

Iranian champion roller skater enrages Tehran by failing to wear hijab while accepting her award for winning competition in Turkey

  • Niloufar Mardani, 29, won women’s skate marathon event in Turkey on Sunday 
  • She appeared on podium without a headscarf, sparking complaint from Tehran 
  • Sports officials condemned her for ‘not wearing outfit approved by the ministry’
  • Comes after climber was denounced for failing to wear hijab in South Korea, and amidst protests over death of Kurdish woman arrested for going unveiled 

Iran has denounced a female speed skater for failing to wear a hijab while accepting an award in Turkey. 

Niloufar Mardani, 29, appeared unveiled on the podium of the women’s skating marathon in Istanbul on Sunday, having claimed first place in the event.

Despite competing in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the national team, Tehran’s sporting authorities still condemned Mardani for ‘not wearing the outfit approved by the ministry.’ 

It comes amid nationwide protests after Mahsa Amini died in police custody after being arrested for refusing to wear a veil, and after climber Elnaz Rekabi was reprimanded for failing to wear a headscarf at an event in South Korea last month.

Niloufar Mardani, 29, appeared unveiled on the podium of a women’s speed skating marathon in Istanbul on Sunday – sparking condemnation from Iran

Mardani (left and right) won the event, but was criticised by Iran’s sporting officials for ‘not wearing the outfit approved by the ministry’

The sports ministry said: ‘Mardani took part in a skating competition in Turkey without authorisation.

‘This athlete was not wearing the outfit approved by the ministry and she has not been a member of the national team since last month.’ 

Mardani had finished first in the women’s skating marathon in Istanbul with a time of one hour, 25 minutes and 20 seconds – almost 13 minutes ahead of second place.

Before she was removed from the national side, Mardani had skated for Iran for the best part of a decade.

She first began skating aged nine before turning the hobby into a professional career, according to BBC Persian.

Mardani held records at the 1000m, 10km and 20km events and was ranked the eighth best speed skater in the world, and Asia’s third best.

It is not clear why she left the Iranian national skating team last month.

Social media reveals she frequently appears without a head covering – sometimes substituting a veil for a hat or helmet, but often with her hair uncovered.

Iran is in the midst of widespread public unrest triggered by the death of Mahsa back in September.

Daily demonstrations have seen protesters clash with security forces who have sometimes opened fire, with opposition activists estimating hundreds have died.

More than 1,000 people have been indicted in Tehran Province alone in connection with what the government calls ‘riots’.

On Tuesday, Iran’s top court signalled it would ‘deal firmly’ with arrested protesters – teeing up the possibility of harsh sentences for anyone caught.

‘The public, even protesters who are not supportive of riots, demand [that we] deal with the few people who have caused disturbances in a firm, deterrent and legal manner,’ judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said. 

Iranian leaders have accused enemies including the United States of fomenting the unrest. Hardline Iranian lawmakers have urged the judiciary to ‘deal decisively’ with the perpetrators.

‘For how long can we tolerate this?’ Setayeshi said.

People from all walks of life have taken part in the nationwide protests, with students and women playing a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves.

Climber Elnaz Rekabi was also reprimanded by Iran’s sporting authorities after she competed in South Korea last month without a veil

Iran is in the midst of mass unrest sparked when Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in police custody, after being arrested for failing to wear a head covering

Two Iranian journalists are facing charges of collusion against national security and propaganda against the state, Setayeshi said, adding that the two were in prison under a temporary arrest warrant and that their case was about to be finalised.

One of those facing charges is Niloofar Hamedi, who worked for the pro-reform Sharq daily and was the first to signal to the world that all was not well with Amini with a photo of her parents hugging each other in a Tehran hospital.

The second journalist is Elaheh Mohammadi, who covered Amini’s funeral in her Kurdish hometown of Saqez, where the protests began. Some 300 Iranian journalists last month demanded their release.

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