Sadaf Khadem: Iran's Unwanted Fighter
More than 49 percent of the world lacks a Y chromosome. It will come as no surprise to anyone who does not currently have their head stuck in a tar pit to hear that particular ratio does not play towards equality through life. It often feels like the gains made by women are marginal if they exist at all. The sporting world is no different. There are some positive signs that this is starting to change, with an increased focus on women’s pro leagues, coaching numbers climbing on both men’s and women’s teams and increased non-sexist catering of all sports to the casual female fan. While these changes aren’t revelatory, they are at least positive. In other parts of the world, trying to change a woman’s place in the sporting world can be downright dangerous, even for women who want to make danger their livelihood.
Now entering the ring, fighting out of Tehran, Iran, Sadaf Khadem. She holds the high honor of being the first female Iranian citizen to win an official professional boxing match after she defeated French boxer Anne Chauvin in a bout on April 13th of this year. It’s a hell of a thing to become the first person to ever do something for your country, and it certainly was a proud moment for both Khadem, her team, and ex-boxer turned promoter Mahyar Monshipour, who is also from Iran. Their happiness was to be short-lived. Shortly before returning home, Khadem’s representative was alerted that authorities in Iran had issued arrest warrants for both Khadem and Monshipour. Iran has a very checkered past when it comes to women participating in sport, some of which Journeyman Sports covers. What is particularly vexing about this instance is that Iran recently allowed women the chance to openly box. Iran, never the home of a simple answer, attached two caveats to their relaxation of their women’s boxing ban. The fighter must be trained by a woman, (good luck finding a woman trainer in Iran) and they must wear a hijab while fighting (Practical). Unable to come to terms to hold Khadem’s fight in Iran, the government allowed her to travel to France. It is here that she has been training with real coaches and full-time boxers of both sexes for the first time in her life. Though outside of the country, it appears defying both of the in-nation stipulations during her history-making bout was enough to land her in hot water. The Iranian boxing federation denied the arrest warrant and blamed Saudi Arabia for spreading the report of the warrants. Khadem’s team wasn’t going to take any chances. Khadem and Monshipour are still in France. Sadaf is now having to face her new reality: The nation she just honored isn’t interested in doing the same for her any time soon.