Women Chess Grandmasters Threaten Boycott Over Hijab Controversy

The womens section at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo: Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The women’s section at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo: Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Not long after the World Chess Federation announced the location of its next championship event, chess players around the world began to express concerns, according to the Daily Telegraph. Slated for next February, the tournament will be held in Tehran, where women competitors will be required to don headscarves, also known as hijab.

Carla Heredia, 2012 Pan American Chess Champion

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Players who qualify for the event have begun to publicly denounce this turn of events. One such protester is the reigning women’s U.S. champion, Nazí Paikidze, and she is threatening to boycott. Paikidze posted an explanation on her Instagram account:

Nazí Paikidze, 2016 U.S. women’s chess champion

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Some consider a hijab part of culture. But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career … I think it’s unacceptable to host a WOMEN’S world championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens.

Not least among the complaints from players is the fact that the World Chess Federation boasts statutes in its bylines against sexual and religious discrimination, as pointed out by observers, including the former British chess champion Nigel Short.

Nigel Short, chess grandmaster

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According to CNN, Iran was the only country to apply to host the 2017 event. This recent event comes in the midst of other scandals surrounding FIDE, including allegations of the body’s president conducting business deals with Syria, which placed him on the U.S. sanctions list.

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