Shooter Heena Sidhu has pulled out of the 9th Asian Airgun Shooting Championships scheduled to be held in December in Tehran stating that she did not like the dress code for women at the event, The Times of India reported.
"Forcing tourists or foreign guests to wear a hijab is not a sporting thing. I don't like it, so I pulled out," Heena told TOI.
While other shooters in the Indian team are ready to comply with the rules, Heena said her decision is her personal choice. "You are practising your religion, let me practise mine. If you are forcing your religious beliefs on me, then I don't want to compete."
The dress code on the tournament's official website reads, "Women's clothing in the shooting range and public places is required to conform to the rules and regulations of I. R. Iran."
Heena took to Twitter on Saturday to address the issue.
There have been reports abt me skipping the Asian air weapon competition in Iran due to their practice of making women wear hijab. (1)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
Im not a revolutionary. But I feel dat making it mandatory for even a sportsperson to wear hijab is not in the spirit of a Sport. (2)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
Im proud 2 b sportsperson coz ppl from diff cultures, backgrouds, sexes, ideologies, religion can cum 2gether n compete without biases (3)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
Sport is an exhibition of sheer Human Effort nPerformance. Our ability to dig deep for Strength, Will Power and Determination. (4)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
This is d reason I compete n I cannot compete for anything lesser than this. But I wud also not have my personal opinion politicised (5)— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
I thank the NRAI for respecting my views n I wud also like 2wish luck 2 r team competing in Iran. Lets concentrate on competition dan hijab— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) October 29, 2016
"We have good ties with the Iranian shooting federation and we respect their culture and tradition. Whoever goes to Iran- tourists or diplomats- wears the hijab. Except Heena, all other Indian women shooters have accepted it," National Rifle Association of India president Raninder Singh told the paper.
This is, however, not the first time that Heena has withdrawn from an event stating issues with the dress code.
In 2013, one of the reasons Heena stated while pulling out of the 6th Asian Air Gun Championships, which was also held in Iran, was the dress code.
"The event in Iran, where the female shooters will have to wear a headscarf during the competition will need a different kind of practice. I am not used it and to get used to it I will have to practice for a minimum of three weeks. It will require a special kind of training and time dedicated specifically for it," she told Mumbai Mirror.
The pistol shooter at the time was recovering from a neck and shoulder injury and said that "instead of wasting my time and energy on preparing for the event in Iran, I would rather complete my rehabilitation".