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Shirzanan is a media and advocacy organization for Muslim females in sport.

  • Our mission is to advance equality and women’s rights through sports.
  • Our vision is access to sports for all Muslim females.

Shirzanan endeavors to become:

  • a practical hub to develop a positive, powerful narrative around Muslim females in sport;
  • a supportive training and capacity-building network; and
  • a media platform with international reach that strengthens the representation, advocacy skills and will of Muslim females in sport to battle discrimination and advocate for gender equality.

We are a practical hub developing positive, powerful narratives around Muslim females in sport; a supportive and capacity-building network; and a media platform with international reach that strengthens the representation, advocacy skills and will of Muslim females to battle institutional and cultural discrimination obstructing access to sport and its consequent benefits.

Shirzanan is the Persian word for “female heroes” and was the first online Iranian women’s sports magazine founded by journalist Solmaz Sharif from 2007-2009. The website was an essential news source with over 6.5 million hits and served as a bridge across the gender divide, cultures and borders.

Updated in 2014, Shirzanan is the only advocacy nonprofit focused on Muslim females in sport. We train female journalists to cover female athletes and train female athletes as advocates. In 2-1/2 years, with a small, dedicated staff and working board, our accomplishments include:

  • Profile published by Women’s Media Center: Muslim Athletes Use Voice and Visibility to Break Barriers
  • Op-eds published by New York Times, CNN and Time: International media outlets published 4 op-eds within 6 weeks (Sep 2016) by our Athlete Ambassadors, including Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir on the discriminatory hijab ban in basketball and Solmaz Sharif opposing the law excluding Iranian women from watching men’s volleyball matches.
  • Hijab / Uniform Bans: With leading sports administrator and lawyer, Brendan Schwab, we challenge the basketball, boxing, swimming and wrestling sports federations who prohibit the hijab worn by observant Muslim females. We are featured in FIBA Allow Hijab short with excerpts from the Life Without Basketball documentary film about Bilqis losing 3 seasons of play.
  • Advocacy and Partnerships: We shared our mission through interviews and presentations with the NYT, United Nations, Muhammad Ali Center for Social Change, U.S. Department of State, etc. Our strategic partners are Human Rights Watch, Women Win, ManUp and The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy with whom we will hold a cross-cultural sports exchange in July 2017 inviting 6 Muslim athletes from 6 nations to the USA.
  • Journalism Training – Oct 2016: We held our first in a series of sports reporting workshops training female journalists to cover female athletes in Jordan during the FIFA U-17 WWC in partnership with Jordan’s Petra News Agency and former director of journalism and media training for Thomson Reuters Foundation, Jo Weir. In 2017, we will develop complementary media skills training for athletes.
  • Sports, Media and Equality Panel Discussion – July 2015: Muslim women described how they advanced past cultural hurdles to excel at sport. Speakers from 7 nations included Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to summit Everest but for whom riding a bicycle was not allowed; Kiran Khan, a Pakistani Olympic swimmer who pretended to be a boy for four years in order to train in public pools barring girls; Mona Seraji, an Iranian snowboarder arrested for riding her bicycle in Tehran; and Hajar Abulfazil, an Afghan football player developing a female-only sports complex. We now mentor, train and support these women as our Athlete Ambassadors.

We formed a Shirzanan Athlete Ambassador contingent committed to supporting female sports empowerment:

  • Raha Moharrak – Saudi Arabian mountaineer (the first woman in her country to summit Mount Everest)
  • Kiran Khan – Pakistani Olympic swimmer
  • Mona Seraji – Iranian snowboarder/surfer
  • Hajar Abulfazil – Afghan football player/coach
  • Amani Ammoura – Jordanian cyclist
  • Rehab Shawky – Egyptian cyclist
  • Kulsoom Abdullah – Pakistani-American Olympic weightlifter
  • Soolmaz Abooali – Iranian-American Traditional karate champion
  • Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir – Muslim American basketball player and instructor
  • Ride For Rights Advocacy Campaign – July 2015: As “Team Shirzanan,” Muslim athletes from the panel discussion received international media coverage for riding bicycles – 7 days and 462 miles – across the state of Iowa to promote female sports participation as a human right.
  • Our Pilot Issue – January 2015: Our pilot magazine features Saudi athletic pioneer Lina Almaeena, role model Ruqsana Begum, sport as a healing tool for refugees, risks to reporting from the Middle East-North Africa, steps to resolving the hijab ban, and current barriers to sports reporting and participation. New content is strictly digital.
  • Contributions from key Muslim athletes, media, women’s rights, and sports experts from the Shirzanan board, editing and production from Carole Vaporean and our parent public charity Non-Stop Media board members:
    • Rimla Akhtar – Chair, Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (UK)
    • Fatima Saleem – Sports reporter, GEO TV (Pakistan)
    • Hayam Essam – Founder, Girl Power (Egypt)
    • Sarah Murray – US Director, Women Win
    • Shannon Galpin – Founder, Mountain2Mountain
    • Minky Worden – Director of Global Initiatives, Human Rights Watch
    • Solmaz Sharif – Co-Founder and Non-Stop Media Board Member
    • Mara Gubuan – Co-Founder
    • Laura Secor – Non-Stop Media Board Member
    • Elisabeth Witchel – Non-Stop Media Board Member
    • Etelle Higonnet – Non-Stop Media Board Member
    • Roozbeh Mirebrahimi – Non-Stop Media Board Member

  • In July 2016: Shirzanan launched our new website shirzanan.org. All original articles appear in digital form.
  • In January 2017: Shirzanan announced new Athlete Ambassadors Ruqsana Begum (UK), Noorena Shams (Pakistan), Amaiya Zafar (USA) and Shamila Kohestani (Afghan-American).
  • In January 2017: Shirzanan joined the Athletes March on Washington with a coalition formed by Athlete Ally. We marched behind the banner “Equality is a Team Sport” to express our dedication to fighting discrimination in sport.

 

  • Upcoming in 2017:
    • Advocacy focused on overturning hijab and uniform bans in basketball, boxing, swimming and wrestling;
    • Cross-cultural sports exchange with The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy;
    • Journalism training workshops; and
    • Media and advocacy training workshops for athletes.

Contact us at info@shirzanan.org

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