DUSHANBE, July 17, 2010, Asia-Plus – Azerbaijani athletes have won a tournament of a Persian martial art, zourkhaneh that was held in Dushanbe, RFE/RL''s Tajik Service reported on July 16.

The Tajik national team placed second and Iran third in the four-day competition, which is named after the medieval poet Firdausi.

Teams from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Lithuania also competed in the tournament, which began on July 11.

Zourkhaneh dates back many centuries in Iran. It comprises gymnastics, weightlifting, and bodybuilding exercises using copies of weapons such as swords, bows, and maces.

All exercises are performed to the beat of a drum. The discipline is intended to promote courage and chivalry among its practitioners. Women are not permitted to compete.

Iran has financed construction of a special building in Dushanbe for zourkhaneh, and Iranian presidential chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei participated in a ground-breaking ceremony on July 11 for construction of a larger complex in Dushanbe devoted to the discipline.

Sayiod Umar, one of the organizers of this week''s competition, told RFE/RL international interest in zourkhaneh has risen since the creation of the International Federation of Zourkhaneh (IZF) five years ago.

According to Iranian officials, 52 countries are members of the federation.

The competition in Dushanbe was sponsored by the IZF, the Federation of Zourkhaneh in Tajikistan, and the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe.