Elham Asghari, an Iranian female swimmer, has set a new open water breaststroke record by completing a 20km marathon swim in the Caspian Sea on June 26, 2013.
But instead of receiving fanfare for her incredible achievement, Elham’s record was rejected by Iranian officials because she is a woman.
In an interview with The Guardian, Elham explains “Although I [stuck to] the full Islamic dress code and had swimming officials present at all times, [the authorities] said no matter how Islamic my swimming gear, it was unacceptable. They said the feminine features of my body were showing as I came out of the water.”
When Elham swims, she has to wear a heavy diving suit, a full jacket, and a headscarf. Which is what she was wearing during her Caspian Sea swim. Iran’s sports ministry will not recognize her new record because her swimming attire is “against Islam and the law”.
Elham refuses to be dissuaded by Iranian conservatives and officials who say swimming is for men only. In this YouTube video, she shares her story and thanks her supporters exclaiming, “I will never lay down my arms before unjust pressures and obligations.”