Here in the Middle East, the mash-up between religious beliefs and human rights can be breathtakingly surreal. Take, as example, baffling contradictions within modern Iranian culture that rigidly restricts gender co-mingling, yet supports gender transitioning.
Footballers in Iran’s professional women’s league are being forced to undergo gender tests to verify that they are “all woman”.
Iran’s football governing body will perform random checks after it was discovered that “several leading players – including four in the national women’s team – were either men who had not completed sex change operations, or were suffering from sexual development disorders.”
Teams must now establish their players’ gender before signing them on, Ahmad Hashemian, head of the Iranian football federation’s medical committee, said in a statement to the state news agency IRNA. Seven players have already had their contracts terminated under the gender test directive.
“If these people can solve their problems through surgery and be in a position to receive the necessary medical qualifications, they will then be able to participate in [women’s] football,” said Hashemian, as reported by Britain’s Telegraph. Those unable to prove female status will be barred from women’s leagues until they complete medical treatment.
Sex change surgery is legal in Iran, in accordance with a religious edict issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Football is widely popular among Iranian women, but religious rules ban them from stadiums during male matches. Iran has five athletes performing in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, but it’s too soon to tell if they’ll send a women’s football team to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero.
Want to learn more about sex in the Middle East? Read Karin Kloosterman’s thoughtful article on Middle East mores regarding LGBT lifestyles (link here).
Image of Iranian footballers from Al Arabiya News