Heena Sidhu refuses to wear a hijab, withdraws from Asian Championships
Former World Number 1 Heena Sidhu has pulled out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship which is to be hosted in Tehran, Iran this forthcoming December. Her refusal to participate in the event comes in light of the fact that all the women participants have to wear a hijab, the official dress code in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“It is not a sporting thing, forcing tourists or foreign guests to do this (wear a hijab). I don’t like it, so I pulled out,” Heena was quoted as saying to the Times of India.
The Arjuna awardee and participant at the London and Rio Olympics, Heena had declared her stand almost three weeks earlier when she informed the National Rifle Association of India. The other shooters from the country have however complied with the rules and will compete in the event, with Harveen Sarao replacing Heena in the 10m Air Pistol team.
For the defending champion, the decision was a matter of personal choice, saying that there should be freedom for each one to practice his or her religion and if some beliefs were being forcefully imposed on her, then she would rather not compete.
The organisers of the tournament which is set to take place from the 3rd to 9th of December, have made the rules regarding the dress code mandatory by stating the same on the official website, “women’s clothing in the shooting range and public places is required to conform to the rules and regulations of IR Iran.”
An experienced campaigner, Heena has travelled to various Islamic countries for competitions but it is only in Iran that it is essential to wear a hijab. In the past as well, a couple of years ago, she had withdrawn from an event in Iran owing to the same reason.
Heena had claimed the gold medal ahead of compatriot Shweta Singh when the Asian Championships were last held in New Delhi. In addition to this, she had also contributed in the team event for India to clinch the gold and win the overall title with a tally of 17 medals which included 6 gold medals.
The pistol shooter has now shifted here entire attention on the Nationals and the World Cup which is to be hosted by India, concluding that, “The Asian Meet is not such an important competition after all.”
Heena even thanked the NRAI for respecting her views and wished the team participating in Iran.