Female footballer leaves Iran, after court overrules her husband's ban

Niloufar Ardalan during a practice session in Teheran. PHOTO: AFP

TEHERAN (AFP) - A female Iranian football player whose husband barred her from travelling to a major tournament abroad has been allowed to leave the country for other matches after authorities stepped in.

Niloufar Ardalan, 30, who plays futsal - a form of five-a-side - missed the final of the Asian Championship in Malaysia in September, which Iran ended up winning.

Before the tournament she had been captain of the national side but her husband, Mehdi Tutunchi, a TV sports presenter, enforced his right under Islamic sharia law to ban his wife from leaving Iran.

Explaining his decision, Tutunchi said the games coincided with the couple's seven-year-old son's first day at school.

However Ardalan has since been granted a single exit visa by the judiciary that will allow her to compete for her country in a Futsal World Cup event in Guatemala from today to Sunday.

State television's most popular football programme, "90" on Sunday announced Ardalan had left for Guatemala.

"Niloufar Ardalan, accompanied Iran's national women futsal team to Guatemala. They are now in Mexico" waiting for their visas, the programme stated on its website.

"My presence in the national futsal team camp happened because of the prosecutor's permission and I have a single exit permit" on my passport, Ardalan was quoted as saying.

Under sharia law, in force since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, a court can overrule a male guardian's decision relating to a daughter or wife.

"Niloufar Ardalan, who after problems with her husband missed the Asian championship matches, left the country without gaining his consent," the judiciary said on its news website.

Ardalan had previously appealed for a change to the law, that bars women from leaving home, let alone the country, without permission from their guardian.

"I wish authorities would pass a law for sportswomen so we can defend our rights in these circumstances," she told Iran's NASIM news agency in September.

Just as Iranian men who have not completed their military service get temporary permits to attend sport events abroad, "something must be done for us women too", he said.

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