Spousal passport law a slippery slope

The immigration service confiscated my passport after pulling me aside just when I had returned from a team training mission.

  • 3 years ago
  • April 1, 2021
4 min read
Iranian women's alpine ski coach Samira Zaghari poses on the slopes Iranian women's alpine ski coach. | Samira Zaghari
Iranian women's alpine ski coach Samira Zaghari poses on the slopes
First-person source
Samira Zagari, 38, is formerly the head coach of Iran's women alpine ski team.

IRAN — My husband blocked me from traveling outside the country under the Iran passport law.

The immigration service and police confiscated my passport and other crucial travel documents at the airport after pulling me aside just when I had arrived in the country from Spain where I was away for a team training mission.

Resisting would have been futile and a crime. I submitted to what was required of me even though it came as a shock as I was to fly to Italy with my team to compete in the FIS Alpine World Alpine Ski Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

My team’s reality would be traveling without me hurts, and I have cried for days since the incident.

I have taken legal steps by filing for divorce. Until that is finalized, I can’t do anything about the traveling block.

Iranian women's alpine ski coach Samira Zaghari poses on the slopes
Iranian women’s alpine ski coach. | Samira Zaghari

No movement to change

Efforts by top female officials from the sports fraternity to present a signed petition to the ministry of sports to review the matter have not borne any fruits.

I have been coaching my team remotely as a way to send them positive energy. It breaks my heart when they inform me of their predicaments that only I could handle as their coach. I fear that my not being present could significantly affect their output.

Scenarios similar to my own have played out before. Under Iranian law, women need consent from their husbands to travel outside the country and even own a passport. It is a law that all Iranian women know because we are an Islamic state and have tried to have it changed.

The law remains in effect for as long as I am still married.

No prenup

My biggest regret is marrying for love which made me ignore the necessary steps to sign the relevant prenuptial agreements that would have revoked his rights to control certain aspects of my life and protect myself.

As much as the law is in place, couples can agree to withdraw them before settling down.

These developments have forced me to step down from my position as the head coach of Iran’s national women’s alpine ski team. If the ministry of sports does not lay measures to protect me from such violations, now and in the future, I will never again work in the sports industry.

I was the first female head coach of the Iranian women’s team. Prior, the men and women’s team used to train together under a male coach.

Making enemies

Under my tutelage in the past four years, we have managed to win various competitions and gained a lot of exposure. Still, this same success has made me a lot of enemies in the Iranian skiing community.

At the moment, I am just waiting for the storm to pass. My mother’s support is what’s keeping me going. She is such a strong pillar for me and has had to overcome barriers in her time as an accomplished sportswoman.

My voice is silent for now, but I will always find an alternative, with my goal being to ascend to a position in the sports industry that will empower me to effect changes to such policies.

Samira Zagari is the founder and CEO of Snowy Path Ski School which is the first-ever ski race academy in Iran.

She is a skiing champion having won various accolades in the 18 years of her being active both as an individual and in a team capacity. She held the position of head coach of the Iranian women’s team until recently when her husband barred her from traveling outside Iran a situation that forced her to step down in protest of the unfair treatment.

Iran’s passport law allows husbands to ban their wives from leaving or traveling outside the country. This would mean that for married women to travel they will need written permission from their spouse.

Harsh sentences have been imposed on female activists challenging laws deemed to curtail the rights of women in the country.

Iran is an Islamic republic meaning its constitution is blended with sharia law.

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