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Female martial artists in Iran reportedly sue for defamation

March 29, 2012 | 10:08 am

Iranian martial artists

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- It was an irresistible story for Western media: veiled Iranian women, foreign invaders and ninjas.

Last month, the British news agency Reuters ran a report on a group of Iranian women training in martial arts in a city near Tehran, saying Iran was training more than 3,000 assassins to defend against foreign invaders. The report caught widespread attention.

Now the group is suing Reuters in Iranian court for defamation of character, Press TV reports. In a Press TV article posted last month, women featured in the photo essay spoke out about their issues with the portrayal.

"Reuters, we are athletes, not assassins," said group founder and sensei Akbar Faraji. "We really enjoy the sport and have grievances against those who portrayed us as something we’re not."

One of the group's trainees, Khatereh Jalilzadeh, said that a Reuters reporter "asked me whether or not I would defend my homeland, should it be attacked by Israel or the U.S. I think it’s obvious that not only any Iranian would do so, but people no matter where in the world will defend their homeland."

Following the blowback from the report, Reuters made changes to it but did not apologize, Press TV reported.

Since March 13, Reuters has shut down its office and reporters have stopped working in Tehran, said one Reuters employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The employee said that, contrary to Press TV reports, Reuters has apologized several times for the report.


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Photo: Iranian female martial artists demonstrate their skills during a showcase for the media March 15 in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran. Credit: Atta Kenare / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images