Montreal

Retired Concordia professor Homa Hoodfar finally launches book after imprisonment in Iran

Retired Concordia professor Homa Hoodfar, who was imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin prison last year, is finally launching the book she edited about Muslim women in sport.

Launch of book on Muslim women in sports delayed by time detained in Iran's notorious Evin prison

Homa Hoodfar arrived back in Montreal on Sept. 29, 2016 after being held in Iran's Evin prison for 112 days. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Homa Hoodfar thought she would launch the book she edited about Muslim women in sport last spring.

Little did she know she would instead be stuck in one of Iran's most notorious prisons.

The book by the retired Concordia University professor, Women's Sport as Politics in Muslim Contexts, was first printed in December 2015.

Hoodfar's goal was to launch it in April 2016 in London and May 2016 in Montreal, just before the Rio Olympics.

"We thought it was timely, but my friends were not about to launch a book without me. They were more focused on trying to get me out of jail," Hoodfar said on CBC Montreal's Homerun.

She ended up spending 112 days in Evin prison, where members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard psychologically tortured her during dozens of interrogations.

Women in sport

Hoodfar, an Iranian Canadian, is known for her research on Muslim women in various regions of the world.

She travelled to Iran last February to see family and to conduct academic research but was arrested in March, just as she was set to return to Montreal.

She was released on bail and then re-arrested in early June.

She was accused by Iranian authorities of collaborating with a hostile government against national security and of spreading propaganda against the state.

Those charges, however, were never presented to her lawyer. Instead, they were published in the Iranian press, which quoted the prosecutor as saying Hoodfar was "dabbling in feminism."

On Tuesday, Hoodfar told CBC News that she believed the Iranian government thought she was trying "to influence Islamic culture," something she neither denied nor supported.

Homa Hoodfar has written widely on women’s rights, with a particular focus on women in the context of Islam. (CBC)

Hoodfar explained that in some totalitarian societies women are often prohibited from conversing in the public sphere.

Sport, on the other hand, is accessible to all, so it has the power to unite women from all parts of society.

"Sport is important — and becoming more important in our time," said Hoodfar.

She said in many countries, conversations about women's clothing made headlines around the Olympic Games.

But in countries such as Iran, the debate was whether women should be allowed to participate in sport at all.

The Olympic dream

Hoodfar may have had to wait a year before launching her book, but she was able to watch the Olympics.

After a few months in prison, she said, she was allowed to read the newspaper and towards the end of the Olympics, she even had some allotted time to watch TV.

Hoodfar said there were very few reports on women's sport, but one of the pieces she did recall seeing was about women who took part in shooting competitions.

"They say any movement of women's bodies is erotic," said Hoodfar.

"Women are not allowed to participate in a lot of the sports, but they do participate in the sports where those kinds of excuses cannot be used."

The launch of Women's Sport as Politics in Muslim Contexts will be held Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the J.W. McConnell Building at Concordia University.

with files from CBC Montreal's Homerun