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Boxer Sadaf Khadem halts her return to Iran after arrest warrant issued

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/04/2019 AFP
a person posing for the camera: Sadaf Khadem is presented with the trophy after beating Anne Chauvin in their boxing match in Royan. © Reuters Sadaf Khadem is presented with the trophy after beating Anne Chauvin in their boxing match in Royan.

Sadaf Khadem, the first Iranian female boxer to win an international fight, intends to stay in France after an arrest warrant was issued by Iran before her return.

Khadem and her trainer Mahyar Monshipour are currently in the city of Poitiers and had been due to return to Tehran after her win over Anne Chauvin on Saturday, her spokesperson said.

The 24-year-old, who works as a fitness trainer in Tehran, defied rules in Iran that female athletes should be covered in line with its Islamic laws governing women’s dress. Khadem was bare-headed and wore shorts for the bout in the coastal town of Royan.

Related: Undercover: female football fans in Iran

“I was fighting in a legally approved match, in France,” Khadem told L’Equipe. “But as I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which is completely normal in the eyes of the entire world, I confounded the rules of my country,” she told the L’Equipe newspaper.

“I wasn’t wearing a hijab, I was coached by a man – some people take a dim view of this,” Khadem added.

There was no immediate comment from the Iranian judiciary, but the national boxing federation appeared to distanced itself from Khadem. Hossein Soori, the head of Iran’s boxing federation, said Khadem was not a registered boxer in Iran and “in the view of the federation all of her activities are a private act,” in a statement issued by the Ministry of Sports and Youth.

The federation said it “strongly” denied she was blocked from returning from France or that she would be punished if she re-entered Iran. Monshipour, who has dual French and Iranian nationality, had been due to make a tour of Iran and give boxing classes.

The spokesperson said the French sports ministry was aware of the situation and that the two Iranians did not want to speak publicly for now.

“I want to improve as much as possible, go as far as possible and show other Iranian women that they can taste this sport,” Khadem had told AFP ahead of the bout.

Related: The female boxers fighting back in the Congo

Iranian women take part in a variety of international sporting competitions, ranging from rowing to rugby to athletics to taekwondo. They must always obey Islamic dress rules, however, which means that sports like wrestling, boxing and swimming are currently off limits.

The International Boxing Association (Aiba), amateur boxing’s governing body, changed its uniform rules at the end of February – allowing women to take part in boxing matches wearing a hijab, or other garments worn for religious reasons.

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