by Martin Shipton, Western Mail
PROFESSIONAL golfer Sahra Hassan should tomorrow be teeing off in one of the biggest tournaments of her career.
But the 24-year-old from Newport will not be taking part in the DLF Indian Open in Delhi because of delays in obtaining a visa caused by the fact that her father was born in Pakistan.
Miss Hassan applied for a visa to play in the Indian tournament seven weeks ago – but has had no success. She said she was not expecting any difficulties, with other players having obtained a visa with ease.
She said: “I paid an agency to sort out a visa for me, and I didn’t expect any problem. Some friends of mine got visas back within four days.
“I played in India two-and-a- half years ago and the people at the Indian High Commission were a bit abrupt but the visa came through OK.
“This time I kept getting requests for more information, but even when I provided it the visa wasn’t forthcoming.
“I’m very disappointed at not being able to take part in the tournament – it would have been a great experience.
“I’m sure it’s to do with the political tensions between India and Pakistan, but that’s got nothing to do with me. My father may have been born in Pakistan, but I’m Welsh. Politics over there is nothing to do with me – I just want to play golf. This is the end of my season so far as tournaments are concerned – all I can do is practise.”
Her father Ash Hassan, who runs Duffryn post office in Newport, said: “I came here from Pakistan in 1967 when I was a child. My wife was born in Britain, as was Sahra. We’re all Welsh, and Sahra has represented Wales and Great Britain.
“It seems ridiculous to me that she’s been stopped from playing golf just because I was born in Pakistan.
“I can understand the need for security because of terrorism, but stopping a young golfer playing in a tournament is just ridiculous.”
Miss Hassan turned professional in January 2009 and plays in the European Ladies Tour, In June this year she was 12th in the Deloitte Dutch Ladies Open, and in October she came 13th in the Sicilian Ladies Italian Open. She is attached to Vale of Glamorgan Golf Club and practises at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.
She appears on the website Muslim Women in Sport as a role model for Muslim girls.
On it she says: “My parents wanted me to get a proper profession like a doctor, accountant or barrister, but I have always loved sport and admired people like Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam and the Williams sisters. My Dad’s family especially wanted me to get a proper profession like most Asian families – they didn’t agree with having golf as a profession.”
Nevertheless her parents have been fully supportive of her career choice.
Asked by the website what role Islam plays in her life, she said: “To be kind to others and be a nice human being.”
Political tension between predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan – always a factor since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947 – has intensified since a number of terrorist attacks blamed by India on Pakistan.
In November 2008 more than 100 people were shot dead in Mumbai in a co-ordinated attack India says was organised from Pakistan.
The two countries are also involved in rivalry involving nuclear weapons.
While India has long held a position of “no first use”, Pakistan, with weaker conventional forces, refuses to rule out the option of starting a nuclear war against India. Earlier this year it test-fired a new missile, the Hatf IX, with a range of just 60 kilometres and specifically designed for warfare.
A spokeswoman for the Indian High Commission in London said she was looking into Ms Hassan’s case.