Women In Iran Using Parkour To Conquer Bullying & Oppression From Men


For most of us who live in countries where we can go visit a spa to relax, get a drink at a bar to take the edge off a bad day, or meet up with friends to vent about an issue, we don’t necessarily think it’s a big deal to combat stress in our daily lives because we always have options.

But what if we lived in countries where there was no such thing, because women aren’t seen as equal human beings in a male-dominated society and are shunned even by the law? You’d get creative, just like a group of plucky Iranian women who are turning to the fast-paced and physically demanding street activity parkour to combat societal bullying.

These women brave sneers from men and harassment to do something they love and which unites them as a female community. It has become their outlet for evading social constraints and dealing with stress.

“As a woman, it’s a bit complicated,” concedes their teacher Maryam Sedighian Rad, a 28-year-old who holds a masters in physiology.

They have to wear a hijab in public, mandatory by law, and at all times must have a male escort to ward off any unwanted attention, including that of the local police.

For those unfamiliar with parkour,  involves getting around or over urban obstacles, with a fast-paced mix of running, jumping, and gymnastic rolls and vaults. It started in France in the 1980s.

Sedighian Rad and some 50 women – teenagers and young adults – are among the hundreds of Iranians practicing this non-competitive discipline that morphed from military obstacle course training into a mainly urban sport.

“Practicing parkour shows that even if you are a woman, you are not bound to stay at home,” says Helia Goharbavar, 16.

“Sometimes people criticize us saying this isn’t a sport for girls. They say we’re supposed to knit … They can’t imagine a girl exercising like a boy,” Sedighian Rad says.


Despite the bulky clothing they wear, these women have adapted to their restrictions and made an exciting outlet for themselves, which helps empower them in a unique way.

The context is the bullying culture and street violence that women face under the country’s Islamic government, whose discriminatory laws make seeking legal recourse for domestic violence almost pointless.

The women of Iran, who make up about 60% of graduates in the country are becoming increasingly angry at the gender inequality and segregation they are facing even today.

“Do you think it’s coincidence that more women are taking karate and kung-fu classes? Women, especially young women, are learning about their rights and fighting back,” says Nooshin, a councilor for Iran’s welfare organization in the city of Hamedan.

As one student from a Tehran parkour clan says: “It gives us courage and helps us release our pent-up energy. It’s great to feel that nothing can stand in your way.”

Check out the fly moves of the Iranian female parkour enthusiasts below.


  1. @scribblingmum says:


  2. Are you saying women don’t have spas, cafes and ways to meet friends in Iran? Surely if they have ways of doing parkour, they probably have ways of meeting friends and having a cup of coffee too. I think this calls for a visit to iran so that these stereotypes can be parted with, especially in terms of thinking they don’t have spas there!!! thats probably one women-only space that works.

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