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Indian Shooter Heena Sidhu Says ‘No’ to Iran's Hijab Rule, and Social Media Rallies Behind Her

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Heena Sidhu after winning gold at the Women's 10m Air Pistol championship at the Munich 2013 ISSF World Cup Final. Screengrab from an YouTube video uploaded by ISSF (International Shooting Sport Federation)

Refusing to adhere to Iran's mandatory hijab for women, Indian ace shooter Heena Sidhu has pulled out of the 9th Asian Airgun Shooting Championship, to be held in Iran in December this year.

Standing by her decision to stay away from the competition, Heena took to Twitter and her official Facebook page to explain her thoughts. On 29 October, she tweeted:

She went on to say that it was a personal decision and she would not like to see it politicized and that the focus should be on the competition and not on hijab.

Heena's stand has found a lot of support online, both within India as well as among a section of liberal Iranians.

Indian cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle tweeted his support:

Comedian Sorabh Pant said:

Referring to a recent visit to Iran by India's Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, where the minister was seen covering her head, blogger SamSays tweeted:

A lot of support is pouring in on her official Facebook page as well.

Heena's decision to not give into the hijab requirement is being seen as a welcome step by liberal Iranians and applauded by activists fighting against the mandatory hijab imposed on Iranian women. Award-winning Iranian journalist in exile Masih Alinejad, who runs the Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom which showcases Iranian women discarding the hijab in public, wrote on youth-oriented news platform Youth Ki Awaaz

In Iran, women are also fighting in their own ways against the compulsory hijab. When Heena chose to protest against the compulsory hijab in Iran, I shared her photo on the My Stealthy Freedom campaign page and my Instagram. Many women inside Iran applauded her actions, cheering her as a sister in the same fight.

This is not the first instance of a sportsperson protesting the hijab requirement in Iran. US chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes recently withdrew from a chess championship scheduled to take place in Iran in December for the same reason and is petitioning to have the competition relocated.

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