A group of women has been arrested in Iran for riding bicycles, according to reports. They’ve also been made to sign pledges promising they will not commit the same ‘crime’ again.
The women, who were planning on cycling in an event in the north-western city of Marivan, were breaking a new regulation that bans females from cycling in public. Women are allowed to cycle in some designated parks, but in other areas they are prohibited to ride, thanks to tighter rules recently put in place.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says that eye-witnesses reported some women being arrested, whilst others were forced to sign documents promising that they would not cycle again.
Signs that appeared in May announced that women were not to cycle in public areas – one such sign reading: “Bicycle riding for women is prohibited in this place. Women are set to ride at the women’s park.” Signed: “Headquarters of prohibiting vice and promoting virtue.”
The ‘Headquarters of prohibiting vice and promoting virtue’ have taken several other measures, including creating buses that are “special for women” to further implement gender segregation in society, according to the women’s committee of NCRI.
It’s not just cycling that is prohibited – in 2014 a British-Iranian woman was jailed for two months for trying to watch a men’s volleyball game, which was considered too ‘masculine’.
Rather than progressing towards some form of equality, activists at the NCRI say that regulations on women’s freedom have ‘stepped up’ even further under the rule of President Hassan Rouhani. A report published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that “Women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran…We expect that the next round of the UN Human Rights Council will be dominated by women’s rights issues, which will raise awareness of this issue; we hope to see progress as a result.”
The report cited bills still making their way through the Iranian parliament that would restrict birth control and reduce women to ‘baby-making machines’. They stated: “The bills were drafted after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described family planning as an imitation of Western lifestyles, and requested that Iran’s population be doubled.”
Iran is not the only country where women are prohibited or seriously discouraged from cycling. The Afghan women’s cycling team is known for their incredible strength in flouting social convention and we’re pleased to see a London charity supporting female refugees who have never been allowed to cycle before.