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Joelle Hunter
@joellehunter via Instagram

Meet Dubai’s only female Muslim wrestler

Joelle Hunter is the selfie-loving, tongue ring sporting 17-year-old who wants to bring independence to teen girls in the UAE by setting up her own women’s wrestling division

When you look at one of Joelle Hunter’s selfies, “pro wrestler” doesn’t spring to mind. But the 5”4 17-year-old who sports a plug, tongue ring and labret piercing is actually Dubai’s first and only female Muslim wrestler.

Joelle – a pseudonym for Gheeda Chamasaddine – is one of a kind, particularly considering she lives in a conservative country. Dubai might be increasingly metropolitan and populated by people from all over the globe, but it’s dominated by traditional ideals and customs when it comes to gender roles. 

“There are no verses in the Quran that are against wrestling," says Joelle. "So religion-wise I am not doing anything against rules of Islam. But as for the culture, yes. To them what I am doing is wrong. In the Arabic tradition and culture, wrestling is viewed as a man’s sport, basically men breaking each other's faces. It’s outrageous a woman being involved so not a lot of people are okay with it.”


She does, however, have support from the important people. “There will always be haters. My parents and family are very proud of what I do and they love it. They support the fact that I wrestle and see that there is nothing wrong with it.”

Her mum even helps make her outfits. “My ring outfits are nothing flashy,” Joelle explains. “They aren't very attractive either 'cause Joelle isn't your girl next door. She’s here to fight and most importantly when she wears her ring outfits, it looks like she’s coming to fight.”

Her basic crop tops, fishnet tights and boots look fairly bad-ass but in comparison to American wrestling and WWE across the world, where more revealing, showy outfits are the norm, she’s pretty low key. That’s not how Gheeda wants things to play out. She intends to create a new generation of independent Muslim girls growing up in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and thinks that wrestling could be the way to do that.

“I absolutely support the fact that teenage girls should wrestle," she says. "It would encourage them to have to no fear, it would inspire them and teach them how to be themselves. I think every teenage girl should take part in wrestling.”

Long term, she wants to go to America, where WWE actually stage events for women, but for now, she’s tackling the male domination of the sport starting at home. “I am looking up to set a woman's division because I want to prove that woman can fight too and woman can be as strong as any man out there – heck, even stronger. I would love to see other girls from Dubai wrestle it would play such a huge role on how women are viewed and it would definitely change the way people look at us.”