Emirates Woman - - Features/parkour -

Fate­meh Akrami was a gym­nas­tics cham­pion, but she needed an­other thrill. Be­ing from Tehran she was limited to com­pe­ti­tion with women, tucked away in gyms. She wanted some­thing more. So she jumped, lit­er­ally, at the chance when a lo­cal boy of­fered to teach her park­our.

Now Fate­meh is one of the best-known fe­male park­our prac­ti­tion­ers in Iran.You might catch her som­er­sault­ing across Tehran in one of sev­eral YouTube videos ded­i­cated to her poise and guile, at­tributes she ded­i­cates to her child­hood years spent grap­pling gym equip­ment.Away went the clumsy hi­jab she'd been used to wear­ing, and in came her own, shorter out­fit and scarf. Her favourite moves are the kong vault and the back­flip, which she uses to hur­dle Tehran's tough, as­cetic land­scape.

“I've been do­ing gym­nas­tics for years,”says Akrami.“Park­our and free-run­ning is so close to gym­nas­tics, and it was easy for me to start be­cause I was a gym­nas­tics cham­pion. But gym­nas­tics is so limited in an Is­lamic coun­try.

“The main feel­ing I get from park­our is free­dom,”she adds.“It re­ally helped me to feel that free­dom in my own coun­try. I could prac­tice to­gether with guys on the streets when­ever I wanted to.” People have heck­led her, she ad­mits, but people of­ten stop to clap her. It's some­thing rarely seen in Iran. And a feel­ing Akrami des­per­ately wants to con­fer to a younger gen­er­a­tion of would-be free-run­ners.

She continues:“Show­ing the strong side of women is all I want to achieve.”

Un­like the di­vided class­rooms, of­fices and gyms, park­our's

“Show­ing the strong

side of wom­e­nis all I want to


open play­grounds are a place where men and women mix, swap tips and help each other out. Mo­ham­mad Javad is a 17-year-old en­thu­si­ast from Shar-e-Babak, a small south­ern min­ing town. It sits in a moun­tain­ous strip of Iran next to the pre­his­toric vil­lage of Mey­mand.“The govern­ment is not good but the people are nice.We love all the people in the world,” he says.

Javad prac­tises park­our in the park, in the gym and even in his bed­room. He draws huge in­spi­ra­tion from fe­male free-run­ners, and it's one of the few places he and the girls can hang out.“Park­our is a way for women to have aban­don,”he adds.“Ira­nian girls in park­our are hero sym­bols for other girls and I hope that one day ev­ery­one can do park­our with­out any prob­lem. In park­our, man equals woman.”

For Gilda park­our gave her a chance to break free from Iran's re­pres­sive so­ci­ety, to run at her own pace.“It's all about speed, un­like the lives of young Ira­nian women, which some­times feel like they're frozen.”

As for Fate­meh Akrami, she's moved on to even big­ger things. Right now she works as a gym­nas­tic coach in Tehran. But her adren­a­line ad­dic­tion has taken her to an even more ex­treme dis­ci­pline, sky­div­ing, for which she has to travel to Dubai.Akrami is un­der no il­lu­sions about the tough en­vi­ron­ment for women all over Iran. She just hopes that she can in­spire oth­ers to break free and fol­low her lead.“There are some ex­treme sports that women don't usu­ally do here like park­our and sky­div­ing. I'd love these sports to be pop­u­lar, and some day I'll be the one who passes her in­for­ma­tion to all the girls who want to learn.

“I lost years of talent in the gym,”she adds.“I don't want this to hap­pen to oth­ers.”

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