Iranian Soccer Star Wins Right To Leave Country After Husband Said No

Niloufar Ardalan hadn't been able to obtain a passport because of her husband's refusal.

Two months ago, Iran national women's soccer team captain Niloufar Ardalan was prohibited from leaving the limits of Iran after her husband mandated that she be home to take her young son to school rather than represent her country at a major international tournament. Her husband’s command was supported by Islamic law, which states that wives must obtain their husbands’ approval before seeking passports.

Now, however, thanks to the interceding of officials and a national judiciary, Ardalan has been allowed to fly with her team from Iran to Mexico, as Iran prepares to compete in the Futsal World Cup in Guatemala later this month. 

My presence in the national futsal team camp happened because of the prosecutor’s permission,” Ardalan explained.

That is, Ardalan’s husband still has not granted her permission. She had to file an appeal and weave her way through the Iranian legal system in order to be able to defy tradition and leave the country’s confines.

Nevertheless, it is still progress, however short-lived it may be. Just about 80 days ago, her husband was able to simply point to a long-standing discriminatory law and hold her at home against her will.

“I wish authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations,” Ardalan said at the time. “These games were very important to me. As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than traveling for leisure and fun.” 

Now, at least for this one tournament, thanks to Ardalan's persistence, officials have had to reevaluate some of those antiquated, patriarchal laws. Just as soccer teams and fan bases have come together in the past 10 days in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, let’s hope that players facing prejudicial laws like Ardalan also get the international support they deserve in order to have the absolute right to play and compete for their country whenever they choose -- without centuries-old discrimination, without spousal permission.


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