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Indian shooter Heena Sidhu withdraws from Iran event after rules force her to wear hijab

880   //    30 Oct 2016, 08:02 IST
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - NOVEMBER 14:  The India team celebrate with the silver medals won in the  Women's 10m Air Pistol Team competition at the Aoti Shooting Range during day two of the 16th Asian Games Guangzhou 2010 on November 14, 2010 in Guangzhou, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Sidhu (C) 

Former World No. 1 shooter Heena Sidhu, one of India’s foremost exponents of the sport, has pulled out of the Asian Air Gun Shooting Championships, which are to be held in December. The event, held in the Islamic country, sees a rule that states all female participants must wear a hijab, or head covering which is traditionally worn by many Muslim women around the world.

Sidhu felt that forcing a rule such as this went against the spirit of sport as an entity, and thus refused. After withdrawing from the event, Sidhu, who was the first ever Indian woman to take the World No. 1 ISSF ranking, took to her Twitter page to clarify.

“You follow your religion and let me follow mine. I’ll not participate in this competition if you are going to force me to comply with your religious beliefs."

Sidhu wrote to the NRAI or National Rifle Association of India, the sport’s governing body in the country, of her decision to withdraw from the event. In a letter, Sidhu explained the reasons for her decision, with the Association complying. 

Sidhu, a two-time Olympian, said she did “not want (my) decision politicized,” having taken a stand against given women full and equal access to the sport. 

The experienced Indian shooter recently finished at 14th at the Rio Olympic Games this August, and was eliminated in the qualification round at the 10m air pistol, having qualified for the Games on the back of a gold medal at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.

The shooter’s statements come at a time when the women’s rights movement has picked up significantly worldwide, and with her decision, 27-year-old Sidhu has taken a firm stance on her own fight for equal participation and representation.

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