Sixth Edition December 2002 - Azar 1381 
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Women’s Best Friend

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School Counselors: Clichéd and Useless?

 

 

 

WOMAN ON HIGH

A portrait of paraglider Azar Mazru’ii Farahani

By Zohre Soleimani

Pictures by Zohre Soleimani

Ms Farahani is something of an emblem. Everyone who writes on women in Iran winds up talking to her, and telling her story. After all, a woman in Islamic garb, gliding through the air, the airborne romance of it all– makes for a perfect introductory paragraph for your article on “Freedom and Islam”, or suchlike. Bad Jens is no exception, we couldn’t afford not to cover her.

Zohre Soleimani has the story.

In Iran, paragliding has existed only since 1992. Merely two years later, in 1994, Azar Mazru’ii Farahani had already become a professional paragliding instructor. Now 35 years old, Ms Farahani is the director of the Women’s Air Sports Federation of Tehran.  

Farahani is religious, and with her traditional, black chador, and her dignified demeanor, she doesn’t look like your typical cliffjumper. But among her students, she turns out to be cheerful and relaxed, and is equally friendly and forthcoming towards both men and women.

Ms. Farahani is an unaffected type of person, and doesn’t take to political slogans. Her only interest, as she puts it, is “the success of her students”.  

When asked what the difference is between the men and the women in the field, she says there aren’t any basic distinctions she could think of. “One minor difference is that, because most women are housewives, they’re out of shape, and they’re physically weaker. On the other hand, not a single one of my woman students ever had an accident. And that’s because, contrary to the men, they don’t try to outsmart the rules of paragliding”.

“Whether they’re Iranians or foreigners, people are always amazed that an Iranian woman can paraglide”, she chuckles. Farahani insists that Islamic dress is no obstacle whatsoever. When she’s hauling equipment up the hills near Tehran, as she does when she is teaching students the basics, she keeps on her chador, rather than change into a coat and scarf.

On the subject of women’s future in the field, she simply says that, “my aim is to prepare talented Iranian women for the international competitions, because women have to prove they’re able to succeed”. Still the only female paragliding trainer in Iran, Farahani has trained dozens of woman students, and in the nationwide women’s contests, the winners as well as the runners-up are usually students of hers.

Her training grounds are the hills and mountains around Tehran, like Shahran, or Emamzadeh Hashem. Unfortunately, the Shahid Mahallati training site still doesn’t allow women to use its premises. This, despite the Tehran Sports Bureau’s confirmation that woman paragliders pose no threat to public decency.

Farahani learned to paraglide from her husband, who is a professional instructor himself. “Several days a week, my husband would be out all day gliding, and would come home very late”, she says, “and since he didn’t want me to be alone all day with the kids, he started taking me along”. Farahani quickly became interested, and started insisting that she needed to learn to paraglide herself, and eventually her husband agreed to teach her.  

Ms. Farahani now teaches four to five days a week. “But besides being a glider, I’m a mother”, she says, “and during the war, when my husband was at the front, I was both father and mother”. Both her sons, aged 10 and 14, are now paragliders themselves, the older boy already an instructor. Farahani also spends one day a week at the Women’s Federation, and when she finds the time, she likes to ski, swim, and play volleyball. “I also do a lot of reading. Especially the Qoran”, she adds.

“But gliding is my favorite pastime. At first, the lack of oxygen would get to me. It’s not an easy sport. It takes a lot of training and dedication. But in the end, the feeling of gliding helps you escape from material worries. Whenever I’m up there, I think of all the time I waste on everyday, material things. I have trust in my flying, for I feel closer to God when I fly”.  

Farahani says she clearly prefers paragliding to family get-togethers. Gliding through the clean air is much more gratifying, she insists, than sitting around at a family party. “Today, someone in the family is having a wedding, and we’re supposed to go. God willing, today’s class will take a little longer, and we’ll get home late”. Her fellow paragliders are her family too, she explains.

transl.: TZ

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