Sep 30, 2016 1:52PM

Female Chess Players Are Mad About Compulsory Hijabs At World Championship In Iran


A bunch of baller female chess players are threatening to boycott this year's world championships in Iran after being notified that they'd need to compete wearing hijabs. FIDE, the international governing body for chess, is copping heat for deciding to host the competition in Iran, where hijabs have been mandatory for women since 1979.

Players are slamming organisers for the decision and arguing that the stipulation is a clear violation of women's rights. FIDE's Commission for Women's Chess has responded by saying that players should respect the cultural practices of the host country, whatever they may be.

The US women's champion, Nazi Paikidze, has expressed outrage over the decision, telling the Telegraph:

"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."

She added that, unless the location changes, she'll be putting out of the proceedings: 

"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."

Former Pan American champion Carla Heredia agreed with Nazi's sentiments, saying, "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."

Susan Polgar, American Grandmaster and chair of Fide's Commission for Women's Chess, defended the decision to stage the competition in Iran, saying:

"I have travelled to nearly 60 countries. When I visited different places with different cultures, I like to show my respect by dressing up in their traditional style of clothing. No one asked me to do it. I just do it out of respect.

I personally would have no issues with wearing a head scarf (hijab) as long as it is the same to all players. I believe the organisers provided beautiful choices for past participants of Women's Grand Prix.

I cannot speak on behalf of others but from my personal conversations with various players in the past year, they had no real issues with it.

If any player has a problem with it, she can and should voice her opinion to the Commission for Women's Chess or Fide and we can address it in our next meeting."

There's no doubt this is an extremely touchy and complicated topic. Time will tell whether or not the event goes ahead as planned. 

Photo: Ren Hang for Oyster #104

Lucy Jones