Female chess players forced to wear hijab at championship in Iran
The world’s top female chess players have reacted with horror after being told they must compete at next year’s world championship wearing a hijab.
Within hours of Iran being revealed as its host country, the prestigious event was plunged into crisis as it emerged players taking part face arrest if they don’t cover up.
In response, Grandmasters lined up to say they would boycott the 64-player knock-out and accused the game’s scandal-hit governing body Fide of failing to stand up for women’s rights.
Fide’s Commission for Women’s Chess, meanwhile, called on participants to respect “cultural differences” and accept the regulations.
Hijabs have been mandatory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the strict law is enforced by the country’s “morality police”.
Any woman found not wearing one in public faces arrest, a fine or public admonishment. However, players claim by awarding the event to Iran Fide is turning a blind eye to sexual discrimination.
Nazi Paikidze, the US women’s champion, also raised concerns about players’ safety in the Islamic republic.
She said: “It is absolutely unacceptable to host one of the most important women’s tournaments in a venue where, to this day, women are forced to cover up with a hijab.
“I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women’s rights are being severely restricted in general.
“It does not feel safe for women from around the world to play here.” Paikidze added: “I am honoured and proud to have qualified to represent the United States in the Women’s World Championship. But, if the situation remains unchanged, I will most certainly not participate in this event.”
The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning about travelling to Iran saying citizens risk being unjustly imprisoned or kidnapped because of their nationality.
Former Pan American champion Carla Heredia, from Ecuador, added: “No institution, no government, nor a Women’s World Chess Championship should force women to wear or to take out a hijab.
“This violates all what sports means. Sport should be free of discrimination by sex, religion and sexual orientation.
“The obligation to use hijab is one issue, another one is that women can’t share room with a male if she is not married to him.
“So the question remains what would happen if women chess players want to share the room with a male coach or if women chess players want to prepare for the game visiting the coach’s room.”