As a sign of protest against the oppression of women in certain Middle Eastern countries, several female chess players are boycotting the Women’s World Chess Championship tournament in Iran this year after refusing to wear hijabs covering their hair, as was mandated by Iranian law for all females in public.
The boycott movement of the championship match in Iran started in September of last year, with U.S. female chess star Nazi Paikidze-Barnes making a statement that she “will not wear a hijab” and that she believes it’s “unacceptable to host a WOMEN’S World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated like second-class citizens“.
Nazi Paikidze has also started a petition on Change.org, stating that FIDE (the organization overseeing the championships rules) reconsider their decision to host the event in Iran.
We demand that FIDE reconsider its decision to award the Women’s World Chess Championship to Iran. In its handbook, FIDE explicitly states its guiding moral principles and one of them is that the organization “rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of sex.”
Paikidze is of Georgian heritage and said she would “not wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.” Official travel advisements for Iran and other Islamic nations urge visitors to these countries to “consult a guide book on Iran to determine how to dress and behave properly and respectfully. Women should expect to wear a headscarf and a long jacket that covers the arms and upper legs while in public.”
Although travel advisories like these never mention what will happen if a woman refuses to cover her entire body in one of these countries, I suspect the outcome would not be a positive experience.
Another player, the 2015 Women’s World Champion Mariya Muzychuk, has also withdrawn from the Iran championship in protest of being forced to wear a hijab. Irina Krush, who has won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship seven times during her career, will also not be participating in the 2017 tournament.
You would think that American feminists, like those who took part in the Women’s March in D.C. after President Trump’ inauguration, would throwing their support behind Paikidze and other women bravely defying oppressive laws, yet Paikidze states she has drawn some “threatening” responses.
Several well known chess players have supported Nazi’s stance, including Garry Kasparov, Nigel Short, WGM Carla Heredia, Tatev Abrahamyan and editor of USchess.org, Jen Shahade.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) October 6, 2016
Although many feminists in America are busy protesting President Trump over what appear to be imagined slights, perhaps true champions of women’s rights should turn their focus to supporting their fellow women in making a stand against ancient, oppressive laws from a bygone era still being practiced in the world today.