Iran is putting up with a severe pollution problem – and cutting off potential solutions because of a widespread reluctance to let women ride bicycles.
Authorities in the Islamic Republic are desperate to do something about their nation’s increasingly toxic air (one city, Zabol, is now considered the most polluted in the world).
An obvious solution is to encourage cycling as an alternative to using a car – especially in major cities like Tehran, which suffers from dire congestion (it is pictured above enveloped by smog).
And in some areas, cycling that’s exactly what is happening – but only for men.
According to an in-depth report by The Guardian, female cyclists in Iran are being actively discouraged from the pursuit, partly because of an ominous religious decree by the nation’s Supreme Leader.
Ayatollah Khamenei issued a so-called fatwa in September stating that women could only ride bicycles if it is not “in public” – whatever that means.
Various interpretations of the decree have since emerged – including one which holds that women can cycle as long as they are covered head to toe and wear a hijab under their helmets.
Given that Iran is often hotter than Arizona, that’s not much help.
In more religious cities, they are even stricter and operate an absolute ban. Even in Isfahan – Iran’s cycling capital – women are banned from using the municipal cycle hire scheme.
The net effect is that Iran is letting political Islam ruin its environment.
Of course Iran has endless other self-defeating decrees – like preventing women from doing the same jobs as men – but it’s especially ridiculous to stick to a rule that’s actively making you sick.