A member of the Iranian women’s handball team has confirmed that after a tournament in Spain she broke away from the team and will not return to the country.
Shaqayeq Bapiri told Voice of America in an interview on Thursday that she decided to stay in the West because of forced hijab rules in Iran and other restrictions. She disappeared from the sports camp a few days ago.
She also disclosed that each member of her team was forced to leave a 15 billion rial guarantee-of-return with Iranian authorities before travelling to Spain for the games. The money, similar to a bond, is more than $50,000 in current exchange rates, but a huge sum for ordinary Iranians. This means Bapiri forfeited the money to be able to seek asylum abroad.
She said in the interview, “We are really restricted. If the [handball] federation had not secured the 15 billion rial guarantee [from players], no one would have returned [to Iran].
Several Iranian athletes in the past two years have defected and sought asylum in other countries. Some took part in this year’s Olympics in Tokyo as non-state athletes.
In addition to dress code restrictions, another issue forcing Iranian sports people to defect is Tehran’s policy of not allowing them to compete against Israelis.