Shirzanan Board Advisor Minky Worden interviews Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassador Hajar Abulfazil (Afghanistan) at the Human Rights Watch office in New York, NY, on 16 February 2016.
Shirzanan’s advocacy and capacity-building efforts are built on the premise that improved media representation of Muslim females in sport will inspire increased participation and skill development that advance Muslim girls' and women's leadership, independence and equality.
Our first advocacy campaign was carried out by Team Shirzanan. We recruited Muslim athletic pioneers and advocates who have forged sports opportunities for themselves and others. They united from seven nations to promote female sports participation as a fundamental right leading to greater independence and gender equality.
Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassadors include:
- Saudi Arabian mountain climber - Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to summit Mount Everest but for whom riding a bicycle was not allowed until 2013; she learned how to ride at age 29 for our #RideForRights;
- Pakistani Olympic swimmer - Kiran Khan, a pioneer in the pool since the age of 10; she cut her hair and pretended to be a boy for 4 years in order to train in the public pools;
- Iranian snowboarder/surfer - Mona Seraji, known as the ambassador of snowboarding in Iran who earned coaching credentials in order to train the next generation;
- Afghan football player/coach - Hajar Abulfazil, a member of the Afghan women's national team and a medical student who hopes to build a female-only sports complex and hospital;
- Jordanian cyclist - Amani Ammoura, a member of the Global Biking Initiative that cycles for charity and a proponent of bicycles for commuting purposes;
- Egyptian cyclist - Rehab Shawky, also a member of the Global Biking Initiative who seeks to educate rural communities on the value of girls in sport;
- Pakistani-American Olympic weightlifter - Kulsoom Abdullah, who led the International Weightlifting Federation to modify uniform rules to allow Muslim women to lift with covered arms and legs in adherence to their faith;
- Iranian-American Traditional karate expert - Soolmaz Abooali, an eleven-time champion and refugee-scholar-athlete using sport to teach conflict resolution; and
- Muslim-American basketball player - Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a Massachusetts high school scoring champion, first NCAA hijabi player currently benched from playing internationally by the FIBA ban on headgear that includes hijab.
The Muslim athletes convened in Iowa to join a group of childhood friends, including a Shirzanan co-founder, who originated the idea to mark their milestone 50th birthdays with a physically challenging and socially meaningful endeavor.
The advocacy campaign featured three components:
- a social media #RideForRights awareness campaign;
- a cross-cultural, multi-national “Sports, Media and Equality” panel discussion at Drake University; and
- the 7-day, 462-mile bicycle ride (known as RAGBRAI) across the state of Iowa in July 2015.
Visit Our Media Coverage section for articles and stories, including recent op-eds by our Athlete Ambassadors published by The New York Times, CNN and TIME.
VIDEO: Muslim 'female heroes' bicycle across Iowa to inspire women around the world from Religion News Service by Sally Morrow on 24 July 2015.
VIDEO: How An Iowa Bike Ride is Promoting Rights For World's Muslim Women described by Raha Moharrak to The Huffington Post on 23 July 2015.
Our outreach has included:
- Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sports Events and Human Rights in Washington, D.C.
- The White House United #StateOfWomen Summit
- The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy
- Women Deliver's Girl Power in Play Summit
- United Nations Youth Forum
- Muhammad Ali Center's Athletes and Social Change Forum
- U.S. Department of State - International Visitor Leadership Program
- The New York Times
- Human Rights Watch
- Meredith Corporation
- She's the First Summit
- and social media campaigns such as Peace and Sport #WhiteCards, #KlickItOut and #Watch4Women by Human Rights Watch.
Co-Founder Solmaz Sharif joined Board Advisor Minky Worden in calling for the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) to deny Iran the right to host stadium matches from which women and girls are barred from attending. VIDEO: Stop Sidelining Women in Iran.
Current projects and recent events (see our Latest News):
- October 2016 - Sports reporting workshop training female journalists to report on female athletes in Amman, Jordan, to coincide with the historic FIFA U17 WWC. Produced by Thomson Reuters Foundation former director of journalism and media training Jo Weir.
- October 2016 - Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sports Events and Human Rights high-level, invitation-only event hosted by U.S. Department of State, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Institute for Human Rights and Business: Minky Worden, Shirzanan Board Advisor was member of steering committee, key panelist and rapporteur; Athlete Ambassadors Raha Moharrak and Bilqis Abdul-Qaddir were invited as panelists and Co-Founder Mara Gubuan attended.
Shirzanan succeeded in forming a coalition of lawyers, athlete-advocates and institutional leaders of sports federations, human rights organizations, corporations and unions to support our challenge of the FIBA headgear ban that has prevented Muslim basketball players such as Bilqis from competing internationally.
- Journalism training for female journalists covering female athletes to coincide with major sporting events;
- Media training for Muslim female athletes;
- Mini-documentary film series about Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassadors and other Muslim females in sport;
- English and Arabic downloadable film versions of the Sports, Media and Equality panel discussion;
- Multi-national, cross-cultural sports exchanges including with The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in 2017; and
- Digital storytelling and information communications technology (ICT) training to equip youth with skills to develop as citizen journalists and to advocate for their cultural, social, economic, political and gender equity.
The following gallery features People and Places with whom Shirzanan Co-Founders Solmaz Sharif and Mara Gubuan, Shirzanan Board Advisors, and Team Shirzanan Ambassadors have shared our mission.