Female Chess Players Refuse To Wear Hijabs For Upcoming Championship In Iran

A group of world-class chess players threaten to snub championships given Iran's strict laws on headscarves and safety concerns


It's considered a sign of respect to adhere to a country's traditions and customs when you travel abroad.

However, a group of leading female chess players are threatening to boycott the world championship of the game as a result of being forced to wear headscarves.

Female grandmasters have criticised the decision to hold the championship in Iran due to the country's strict laws on the hijab, oppression of women and uncertainty relating to their safety following multiple arrests of foreigners by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in recent months.


American female grandmaster Nazi Paikidze told The Times: 'This is a country where to this day women's rights are severely restricted.

'I will not be supporting this oppression of women by wearing a hijab myself. Since forced hijab is the country's law, I could face imprisonment for not complying,' she added.


Paikidze's comments refer to the country's law that requires all women to wear a hijab in public. Failure to do so can result in jail time or flogging.

The choice of country has also been lamented for violating the championship's governing body Fide's ethos on gender and religious discrimination.

British chess heavyweight Nigel Short – who has supported the women's demand to change the location of the competition – says: 'It is against Fide's own statutes; you're not allowed to discriminate either on grounds of gender or of religion.

'You can't discriminate on sexual or religious grounds and this is doing exactly that — it is compelling women only to wear Islamic headgear and that is wrong,' he continued.

British woman grandmaster, Jovanka Houska, echoed Short's sentiments following the grand prix in the Iranian capital in February that resulted in many female players admitting the wearing of a headscarf was off-putting during the game.

'The decision shows a lack of concern for the players.

'No woman should be forced into dressing a certain way. Official Fide events have been held in Iran before and I do know that some of the women felt very uncomfortable,' she added.

The news comes after the US State Department have reportedly issued US players with travel warnings amid concerns Americans could be wrongfully detained and imprisoned.

Former Pan American champion, Carla Heredia told said the decision to hold the championship in Iran is nonsensical for players as they would be forbidden to discuss tactics with male coaches in the same room.

'Venues are negotiable — human rights are not,' she said.


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