An Iranian woman who was able to set the mark for swimming the Caspian Sea while wearing a hijab has been denied the official record because her outfit showed her “feminine features.” Elham Asghari designed a special “Islamic” bathing suit that weighed her down so that she could compete in the long-distance swim. Iran’s conservative religious authorities decided that the outfit was too revealing and declined to acknowledge her record.
“Although I (stuck to) the full Islamic dress code and had swimming officials present at all times, (the authorities) said no matter how Islamic my swimming gear, it was unacceptable,” she said. “They said the feminine features of my body were showing as I came out of water.”
The 32-year-old took nine hours to swim 12.4 miles across the freezing waters of the Caspian.
In order to gain public support, Asghari created a video of herself swimming in the custom-made bathing suit.
“I swam 20 km in Nowshahr, they lowered it to 15 km,” she says in the video. “I protested and they accepted 18 km. Yet now, they do not register the record. My 20 km record has been held hostage in the hands of people who cannot even swim a distance of 20 meters.”
Asghari then delivers a message for swimmers (and women) all across the world, The Daily Mail reported.
“I'm not going to submit to bullying, and I ask you not to submit either,” she says. “I ask you to give your utmost effort to achieve your goals. I won’t give up! I beg you not to give up in the face of their lies. Swimming is not exclusively for men. We ladies can do well, too!”
A change.org petition supporting Asghari now has more than 147,000 signatures. “She continues to face obstacles and challenges that most athletes would never have to deal with on a daily basis,” the petition says. “Like any other athlete she deserves to be recognized for her accomplishments.”