A portrait of
paraglider Azar Mazru’ii 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.
Soleimani has the story.
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.