By Emily Goddard

Iranian Wrestling Federation international department head Farnaz Panahi and United World Wrestling Bureau member Rodica Yaksi attended the Greco-Roman World Cup in Tehran with Badrolmolouk Kahrangi and a fellow dignitary ©Tim Foley/United World WrestlingThe Iranian Wrestling Federation has announced it will launch its first ever belt wrestling programme for women in the country to train and compete in the sport.

Rasoul Khadem, the President of the national governing body, revealed the initiative and confirmed Badrolmolouk Kahrangi as head of the programme.

United World Wrestling President Nenad Lalovic welcomed the move.

"We are excited to work with the Iranian federation in their efforts to provide wrestling opportunities for the women of their country," he said.

"We applaud their progress and eagerly support this recent development."

Iran said it has been working to improve the acceptance of women in wrestling, but the move comes less than a year after the country faced international condemnation following the arrest of British-Iranian woman Ghoncheh Ghavami last June for attending an International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World League match against Italy.

Women in Iran have been banned from attending football matches for quarter-of-a-century and that was extended to volleyball in 2012.

The FIVB subsequently stripped the nation of the right to host this year's Boys' Under-19 World Championships and Ghavami was charged before being released on bail last November, after spending almost 150 days behind bars, pending a court appeal.

Women in Iran will begin to train and compete in belt wrestling ©IRNAWomen in Iran will begin to train and compete in belt wrestling ©IRNA

Iranian officials have since said they will allow foreign women to attend matches at this summer's Asian Volleyball Championships, although local females will remain banned.

The sport of wrestling, however, seems to be making tracks to promote female participation.

Last week, Iran hosted this year's Greco-Roman World Cup and accepted a female representative of United World Wrestling for the first time, with Rodica Yaksi attending both days of the event, alongside Kahrangi and several other female officials from Iran.

Last year's Greco-Roman World Cup at the Hafte-Tir Wrestling Hall in Tehran also witnessed Kiki Kelley of the United States becoming the first woman to walk the mats in the capital city.

The first female belt wrestling tournaments in Iran are expected to be held later this year, with dates to be confirmed in the near future.

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