Meet the one and only Iranian female sea captain

November 28, 2017

Born and bred in Mazandaran province, northern Iran, 31-year-old Zahra Salarieh, is the only female ship’s captain in Iran.

The story all began when Salarieh was flipping through pages of a newspaper. She came across a job vacancy advertisement that changed her life forever: recruitment in a life jacket manufacturing company. 

Soon, she landed the job and at sheer 13, she got into workforce, tailoring clothes in a sweatshop after school, the Persian language website reported in an interview with her published recently.

Strangely, her job opened a whole new world to her as she got to meet naval men and mariners. 

Day after day, Salarieh became more passionate about the sea world and marine navigation, and eventually her fascination led her to enroll in navy training classes.

It was the first time that a woman, a young one indeed, had ever wished to take maritime courses and against all the odds, she was admitted. 

Salarieh believes no rule of law can ban women from earning formal naval education. 

It was tough juggling school and work as she took part in classes in day time and had her nose in books until late into nights, but Salarieh just couldn’t give up.  

She even went one step further and took practical courses along with her theoretical studies. 

Salarieh’s hands-on courses ranged anywhere from overcoming sea sickness and survival skills at sea to repairing boat and ship engines, to learning to tie 70 different types of boating knots in ropes double her weight.   

Before she knew it, final exams had arrived and she was to put her knowledge to test. 

And soon after came the moment of truth. She passed the most difficult exams no man had ever succeeded at. 

Her hard work and dedication paid off and she received her license to steer a ship. 

But that wasn’t enough as she needed to know all the ins and outs of her profession. So, she continued to climb up the ladder of ‘knowledge’ and got her various licenses/ diplomas in the maritime field. 

However, all those earned certificates weren’t enough for those in charge to put their trust in, the then, 15-year-old Salarieh, to lead a ship.

Those days, no one backed the petit girl and her efforts to convince ship owners for a job were all in vain.

Disappointed she was. 

From early morning till late at night, she stayed on docks watching sailors at ship’s wheels transporting passengers at sea, despite having a stack of certificates. 

Until one day a middle-aged man, Captain Dadipour, inquired about the ‘girl on the pier.’

“She claims to be a licensed mariner, but she sure looks too young for that”, one of the sailors replied with a smirk on his face. 

But it was different with Dadipour. Somehow he felt that he could trust the girl, and once he inspected Salarieh’s license closely, he granted her ‘the job’ there and then. 

For the first time, she was behind the steering wheel of a passenger ship carrying people from Bandar Abbas to Qeshm Island, but of course with Dadipour next to her. 

A first timer, Salarieh was stressed out but Dadipour gave her confidence and encouragement to go on.

She never expected a positive reaction from passengers; however, unbelievably, they were all happy with the little girl’s performance. 

Following her first sailing experience, she continued her self-studies and spent two years at sea gaining valuable experiences. 

Reflecting back on years she spent at sea, she called it “best part of my life”, leaving her nothing but beautiful and breathtaking memories.

The truly resilient Salarieh has endured many hardships to be where she is today, a helmswoman. 

She has a dream job and believes that women can succeed at anything if they only put their hearts and minds into it, even in a male dominated world. 

“Women can always be the best,” she reaffirmed. 


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