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Iranian female boxer Sadaf Khadem cancels return home after arrest warrant issued

PARIS

The first Iranian woman to contest an official boxing bout has canceled plans to return home after an arrest warrant was issued for her in Tehran, her representative said on Wednesday as Iranian authorities issued a denial.

Sadaf Khadem beat a French boxer, Anne Chauvin, in the bout, which took place in western France on Saturday.

Her representative, Clara Dallay, told Reuters that authorities had issued arrest warrants against her and fight organizer Mahyar Monshipour.

Monshipour, an Iranian-born former boxing world champion who is now a French citizen, set up the bout after Iran opened the door to allowing women to box.

Khadem, 24, had been due to return to Tehran, where she works as a fitness trainer, following her victory Saturday over 25-year-old Anne Chauvin of France in the western town of Royan.

Monshipour, who has double French and Iranian nationality, had been due to make a tour of Iran and give boxing classes.

In the bout Khadem was bare-headed and wearing shorts, defying rules in Iran that female athletes should be covered in line with its Islamic laws governing women’s dress.

Khadem is accused of violating Iranian dress rules for women while her trainer is suspected of complicity, the spokesperson said.

There was no immediate comment from the Iranian judiciary but the Iranian boxing federation distanced itself from the female boxer.

Hossein Soori, the head of Iran’s boxing federation, denied Khadem would be arrested, attributing the information to “media linked to Saudi Arabia”.

“Mrs Khadem is not a member of (Iran’s) organized athletes for boxing, and from the boxing federation’s perspective all her activities are personal,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Mahyar Monshipour was warned of the existence of the arrest warrant in a text message, said the spokesperson, without giving further details.

The spokesperson said the French sports ministry was aware of the situation and that the two Iranians did not want to speak publicly for now.

“I want to improve as much as possible, go as far as possible and show other Iranian women that they can taste this sport,” Khadem had told AFP ahead of the bout.

Iranian women’s participation in sports events is heavily restricted, though authorities are beginning to give ground in some areas after years of campaigning by pressure groups.

The federation now allows women to register to box, on condition that they be coached by a woman and wear the Islamic hijab while competing. To date, no bouts between female fighters have taken place in Iran.

Monshipour was planning to travel back to Iran with Khadem this week.

France’s foreign ministry could not immediately comment on the case.

Franco-Iranian relations are in a tense phase after comments by France’s ambassador to the United States last week on Iran’s nuclear program sparked an angry reaction from Tehran.

(AFP/REUTERS)

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