Consider signing the petition to eliminate hijab requirement for women chess players at World Championships

UPDATE: The goal of 1000 signatories has been exceeded, thanks to many readers here, and has now been raised to 1,500. Given the 40,000-odd subscribers here, many who surely agree with Paikidze-Barnes, I’d like to see thousands of signers. Click on any screenshot to add your name.



As I mentioned a few days ago, FIDE, the World Chess Federation, is holding the Women’s World Championships in Iran, and all women players are required to wear the hijab while playing. Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, the U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, has simply pulled out of the competition because of this ridiculous dress requirement, whose violators are subject to arrest.  64 women are slotted to appear there, but Paikidze-Barnes, courageously, won’t be one of them. Other women players, too, are calling for a boycott of this event.

Paikidze-Barnes has organized a petition to FIDE (click on screenshot below to see it) to do something about the requirement that chess players adhere to religious and misogynistic definition of “modesty”. The requirement that women players veil themselves makes a mockery of the claim that wearing the hijab is a matter of “choice,” although of course Iranian law requires that women be veiled in public. And the requirement for a hijab, as noted below, breaks FIDE’s own principle that players not be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, politics, race, sex, or religion.

This is more than an issue of dress in a sporting event; it’s an issue of whether fundamentalist Islam has the right to make non-Muslims adhere to religious dictates in a non-religious venue. If you click on the screenshot below, you can go sign the petition, and given the number of readers here, it should be easy to get the number of signatories over the goal of 1000 (there are 803). But I’d like see that goal exceeded by a substantial margin.  I would be DELIGHTED if, in the next few hours, those readers who agree with Paikidze-Barnes could sign that petition and perhaps, by posting it on Facebook, get others to do otherwise. If you play chess yourself, you’ll have a special interest in this issue, as it puts religious restrictions on players.

The plea, written by Paikidze-Barnes, proposes alternatives for FIDE:

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.” (F.01(1)(2)). Yet, by awarding the Championship to Iran, it is breaking that pledge to its members and subjecting them to discrimination on all fronts.

We propose two solutions:

  • Change the venue or postpone the competition until another organizer is found to host the championship in a “no conflict” venue.
  • Require that wearing a hijab be optional and guarantee no discrimination based on gender, nationality, or any other human rights as pointed out in the FIDE handbook (listed above).

These issues reach far beyond the chess world. While there has been social progress in Iran, women’s rights remain severely restricted. This is more than one event; it is a fight for women’s rights. By signing this petition, you can help support the cause and make a real, positive change in the world.

Thank you for your support!
Nazi Paikidze
U.S. Women’s Champion

As Asra Nomani has pointed out, this is equivalent to requiring male players in Iran to wear hoodies. But of course they wouldn’t be, for the dress requirement applies only to women. Is that fair? I can’t see how.

Paikidze-Barnes is of course hurting her career with this move, as she’s simply out of the championships; but she clearly cares more about the plight of women than for her own personal advancement. This is an admirable thing to do. If you share her feelings, please go over and sign the petition.


  1. ashdeville
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Done! Absolute idiocy for them to agree to this.

  2. Malgorzata
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Signed + posted on Facebook

  3. eric
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I hope more women boycott this. I guess it would be too much to ask for the BDS crowd to raise their voices against this. Its Iran, so that makes it alright?

  4. Sshort
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Done and done again.

  5. GBJames
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink


  6. mfdempsey1946
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink


  7. Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink


  8. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink


  9. Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Me too.

  10. Scientifik
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one wondering about the point of gender segregation in chess championships? I understand the need for it in physical competitions, but in mind sports?

    • Joseph S. Fuentes
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      If there is gender segregation in chess, it actually works against the male players. Women can compete in the (Open) World Chess Championship (provided they qualify), but MEN cannot participate in the WOMEN’s World Chess Championship.

    • eric
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I see it as a good intermediate step. Sexism can easily (and even accidentally) beget a lack of support and lack of opportunity for women, even for hobbies like chess. Sure the local chess club might be for everyone, but if the attitudes of the leaders and participants is sexist, women looking to join a chess community aren’t going to want to participate in that group. Formal, institutional women’s events helps fight that tendency, ensuring equal opportunity.

      If there was no sexism by chess-playing men, we wouldn’t need them. Everyone could play together. And I have no doubt that that’s the case at many chess clubs and events. Heck it might even be the norm. But chess players aren’t any worse or better than the rest of us, which means that sometimes – often times – we may in fact need women-focused events and groups in order to allow women to reach a simple parity of opportunity.

      And remember the lede here: there is clearly sexism going on in major chess competitions, if those chess competitions permit a host country to force a dress code on women that they wouldn’t permit to be forced on men.

      At least, that’s the way I see it.

  11. serendipitydawg
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The goal is 1500 and is still 466 short.

  12. Richard Bond
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It is not segregation. Women can enter any event, but they are on average not as strong (in chess ranking terms) as men, so they have their own women-only events

    • Richard Bond
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Sorry; that was meant as a reply to Scientifik.

    • Scientifik
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      I wasn’t aware that such a performance difference existed, but hey, white men are also not as good performers (on average) in long distance running as black men, but there are still no white-only running competitions 😉

    • Pete Taylor
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I’m not so sure that men are stronger on average. It’s possible, but considering that male players outnumber females by a large factor (in competitive play, I suspect about 20:1) the predominance of men at the top level might be just a property of the longer tail of the distribution curve.

      There is a brief discussion of this at

      Personally I have no problems with having a separate tournament for higher-rated women.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        You make a good point about the relative numbers, but it does not really alter the fact that if women are to compete with each other, they need their own tournaments. IIRC, Jason Rosenhouse (of Evolutionblog) remarked a few years ago that personal hyagiene was dubious at the lower level chess tournaments through which anyone has to fight to get qualifying ratings, and that this might well discourage girls and women. Discrimation by odour, perhaps?.

        • Pete Taylor
          Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

          I think we are in agreement re the separate tournaments.

          Re-reading, my comment was in reference to the top levels – were you perhaps suggesting women’s/girl’s tournaments at lower or amateur levels? In the UK there are tournaments at the national level for women, and girls at various ages. But for weekend congresses (popular with amateurs) I’m not aware of any.

          • Richard Bond
            Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            My slightly facetious remark about discrimation by odour was meant to apply to the amateaur tournaments through which players must progress to reach senior levels. If girls and women want to become top players, I think that they must compete with boys and men.

  13. busterggi
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Just put my X on the petition.

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink


  15. Darrin Carter
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Signed plus Facebook

  16. Flemur
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    FIDE … is holding the Women’s World Championships
    FIDE ..“rejects discriminatory treatment … on account of sex.”

    The hypocrisy! It burns!

    So, not signing.

    • Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      How is it hypocritical? It just encourages more women to play chess. Women can compete in the open events with men.

      • Flemur
        Posted October 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        How is it hypocritical?

        Is it not obvious?

        Only women can compete and only women are supposed to wear a funny hat. You might as well wonder why the funny hat requirement is discriminatory and supposedly oppresses women but not men.

        It’s like claiming to “reject discriminatory treatment for racial reasons”, then having a “whites only” track and field meet, and holding it in Zimbabwe.

        It just encourages more women to play chess.

        That’s really swell.

        Women can compete in the open events with men.

        That’s also swell.

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Petition signed.

    If I was a guy playing in the tournament, I would debate between not showing or…showing up in a hijab.

    • Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s brilliant, show up wearing a hijab. If one can fight fire with fire then maybe it’s possible to fight absurdity with absurdity. Either way, it should make for an interesting photo-op.

  18. Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I can think of a third option. The players (preferably all of them regardless of gender) could wear hijabs made of chains. Maybe decorated with padlocks. Might make the point more strongly than merely not showing up. Probably riskier too.

    • eric
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      If you’re going the chains route, might as well go whole hog and include some inappropriate leather straps and accoutrements, too. Because nothing says modesty like BSDM hijab. 🙂

  19. Debra Coplan
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    signed and sent to friends

  20. Nell Whiteside
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Signed and retweeted.

    1 215 signed so far.

  21. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Signed, Tweeted, and Facebook.

    This is an excellent initiative and I hope it is successful.

  22. Cate Plys
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I’ll sign, but two things still bother me besides the hijab requirement during competition:

    1. The petition should be calling for a boycott of competition in any country that discriminates–not just because the hijab is required *during the competition*. Even if the hijab requirement is dropped, the female players will still be required to go to a country that legally discriminates against women, and will be required to wear the oppressive clothing while in public in Iran. That should not be acceptable.

    2. I agree with some others that the idea of women-only chess competition in the year 2016 doesn’t seem right. I understand women can participate in the “regular” meets, and men can’t compete in the women’s; and I understand that in the past, girls were either excluded or not encouraged to play chess, so that there were fewer women who could compete in the “regular” meets. But I do wish someone would explain why it’s still necessary, today. Perhaps it is. Perhaps there is still so much discrimination against women playing chess in many countries that the women’s competition remains valuable. I just haven’t seen anyone make the case for it so far. It seems to be taken for granted, and not something that has to be explained.

    I can’t help but think that if there is so much discrimination against women playing chess in some countries that a women’s competition is still valuable, that I would still not compete in a female-only competition if I grew up in a country that didn’t discriminate in that way, and thus was capable of competing in the regular meets. Again, I could well change my mind on this if I saw a good argument for the women’s chess, and for women from countries like the U.S. also participating in it.

    • Gabriel
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      1. The international chess federation FIDE is a corrupt organization beyond anything imaginable, beginning with its president, a known mafia billionaire with crazy ideas (he was abducted by aliens). This is something everybody knows but only outsiders dare to speak about or criticize (like Kasparov) for fear of losing their privileges. FIDE has never had any problems organizing tournaments in countries that violate human rights (or fund ISIS, like Qatar). Players, also, have remain muted in that respect, men, as well as women, and played happily in those countries. The current hijab turmoil has happened only because THEY (the players) are the ones forced to be covered.
      2. The ideas you suggest, the questions you formulate, are total taboo in the world of chess. Anything that could be interpreted as suggesting that women play chess worse than men is absolute taboo. Just raising this issue could end your career. The fact is that today, in a completely non segregated chess world with every opportunity available to both sexes, there are 1530 GM (Grandmaster – the highest chess title one can attain) in the world and only 33 are women. There is not a single women among the 100 best players in the world. There are no male only competitions of any kind in the world of chess. But there are women only competitions (Olympiads, etc.) and there are also titles available only to women. The Highest women only title is WGM (Woman Grandmaster), there are 287 of them: if men could opt for this title thousands would get it easily. If you raise this issue you are supposed to use any of the “explanations” based on hunches available but never suggest that maybe a biological component is playing a role…

      • Cate Plys
        Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Interesting, thanks for addressing. My guess, and only a guess, would be that even if there *is* a neurological reason why men would be better at chess, it hasn’t been proven. My own assumption would be that you have to get serious about chess very, very young and devote yourself to it to have any chance of attaining the highest titles, and even in countries where women are relatively equal legally, they probably aren’t encouraged to play chess as much as boys even now. So it doesn’t surprise me that there are no women yet at the highest echelons. I’m just surprised that women from democratic societies would want to play in segregated competitions at this point. Like everyone else, you go as far as you can, and that’s that. Where’s the thrill in going farther in competition against a group of less skilled players? But again, I realize the women chess players who do compete in the women-only tournaments must have a rationale, and maybe I’d agree if I heard it.

        • Posted October 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          I agree. It’s possible there is a biological difference, but there are plenty of other social reasons to explain the disparity as well. The problem with just looking at numbers of GMs is by that reasoning, Russians are inherently better at chess than, say, Americans. And despite what Gabriel said, you don’t have your career ruined if you make the suggestion that there is a difference, Nigel Short is doing fine and he said exactly that. Also, there is a female player in the top 100 live ratings: Hou Yifan at 97 (her peak ranking is 59) Judit Polgar did compete at the highest levels, having a peak ranking of #8 and competing in world championship cycles. Just some info.

          • Gabriel
            Posted October 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

            Nigel Short is doing fine because he is the kind of guy that acts like that, everybody knows him. He is also a well established GM, past contender to the WC, he’s been everywhere and done everything. But even in his case he got a huge backslash, not only from the chess world but also from the mainstream media (google it). Imagine if he had been a regular chess master… Looking at numbers is sometimes the right thing to do. Go to to see the live ratings (BTW, Hou yi Fan is not among the top 100 currently) and pay attention not only to the position in the ranking but also to the elo (the individual rating) of the players and compare the best men with the best women. The result is extremely puzzling. And another item of info: Among the top 100 active players in the live rating list there are 22 Russians (2, 9, 15 in the ranking) and 6 (3, 6 and 7 in the ranking) Americans. Not bad at all for the Americans (Current Olympic gold medal winners), who belong to a country where chess is virtually unknown compared to Russia. If nobody suggests that Americans are worse than Russians it’s because of the simple fact that American players have PROVED that to be wrong (and each day the Americans are climbing up the ranking). And, if you mention Polgar (Judit, not her two sisters, both good but not top players by any stretch), maybe you should also point out that she was, and still is, a total anomaly, a brilliant and fabulous exception, light years ahead from any other female player in history… Of course that this enormous disparity in chess skills between men and women could be because of some social reasons, the fact is that nobody has been able to provide any evidence. What I do not understand is the reason why the possible biological factor is NEVER discussed, never even considered. Why? What are we afraid of?

      • eric
        Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Hmm, 33/1530 is about 2%. Someone upstream mentioned about a 20:1 male:female participation rate; if correct, that puts women at ~5% of the chess-playing population. The numbers are in the ballpark of each other. I really don’t think we need a biologically deterministic theory to explain why its 2% instead of the expected 5%.

        And while I disagree that floating the idea of a biological difference should be a career-ender, I think anyone who immediately leaps to the biological explanation is probably not thinking too hard about the social factors that could be at play here.

  23. Bill
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    This is some nice virtue signaling.

    But i guess if signing this makes you feel better, go ahead.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      So what alternative plan do you have to put pressure on FIFE, and so indirectly on Iran?

      The more activities we can come up with and do, the better. Fire away!

    • eric
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      If you want to support the effort but not virtue-signal, just sign the petition anonymously. That option is available. They will still collect your personal info, but they won’t publish it.

    • Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Oh, gosh, that a petition people sign for a perfectly good reason could also signal virtue.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Signed, Facebook’ed.

  25. Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Signed. It was up to 1348 when I added my signature.

  26. Reggie Cormack
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink


  27. jt512
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Cate’s point #1, and I am not signing the petition for that reason. A petition protesting the hijab is utterly the wrong response to this. The correct response is to pull your support from whatever chess association decided to hold its world championship tournament in a country with institutionalized misogyny.

    Imagine the tournament were being held in Nazi Germany. Would you sign a petition politely protesting the Holocaust, and go anyway?

    • Cate Plys
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      You’re right. Now I’m sorry I signed it. Although when I read it, it seemed to protest going to Iran at all. But then it gave two alternative remedies, and one remedy was still going to Iran and just not making everyone wear hijab while the play. So crazy.

    • eric
      Posted October 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes, just imagine if the US attended a major sporting event in Nazi Germany. Its unthinkable! Why, no symbolic protest or win at the event could make up for our participation! [facepalm]

      I really dislike making good the enemy of perfect. Yes there are certainly stronger social protests one could mount. But given that Nazi Paikidze-Barnes is not in control of FIDE or even the US contingent, I think it makes pragmatic sense to support her in what is within her power to do. Rather than doing nothing after claiming that this effort (by other people, ahem) just doesn’t meet your personal standard of sufficient social justice.

  28. moleatthecounter
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Signed, shared, passed on.

  29. Rich S.
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I can, and have, signed the petition, but I do think it a poor second best. Frankly I think that all contestants should refuse to attend and thus be classified as lesser citizens by a religion.

  30. Aroup Chatterjee
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I suggest the Queen chess piece should have a hijab. Also the queen shd only move half a sq as a female is worth half a man

    From: Why Evolution Is True To: Sent: Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 14:32 Subject: [New post] Consider signing the petition to eliminate hijab requirement for women chess players at World Championships #yiv8551251904 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8551251904 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8551251904 a.yiv8551251904primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8551251904 a.yiv8551251904primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8551251904 a.yiv8551251904primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8551251904 a.yiv8551251904primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8551251904 | whyevolutionistrue posted: “As I mentioned a few days ago, FIDE, the World Chess Federation, is holding the Women’s World Championships in Iran, and all women players are required to wear the hijab while playing. Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, the U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, has simply pull” | |

    • Dominic
      Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      Perhaps we could make them little yashmaks… & send them to the harem!


  31. Dionigi
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I would love to sign this petition as agree with its sentiments and have spent many years seeing the way that women are harrassed and degraded in muslim countries. Unfortunately the designers of this website are being very clever again and when they see my IP address they change the language of the screen to one which is relevant for my location but is not my language. I think this is just as bad as countries who decide that all people in their country must follow their religions dictates regardless of their religious views or lack of them. Assuming that my language is the same as the majority of the people in the country just because my IP address reflects that I am at present in that country is just as bad.

    • Dinsdale
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      A bit late to the game here, but when I saw your post I had to speak up for your future sanity.

      Sites that auto-detect to set language will typically have a mechanism to override the default. And is no exception. If you scroll to the very end of the page you will see a selection box to choose your language of choice to override the default. IMO that should have been at the top of the page, but that is a nit to pick on another day.

  32. Rupinder
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink


  33. somer
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 5:48 am | Permalink


  34. HaggisForBrains
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    2,800 now.

  35. Syfer
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    It’s breached 3 thousand

  36. Zetopan
    Posted October 9, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Dionigi @31:
    “Unfortunately the designers of this website are being very clever again and when they see my IP address they change the language of the screen to one which is relevant for my location but is not my language.”

    Try using an anonymous connection. Below is one example that allows you to select a host country:

  37. Zetopan
    Posted October 9, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Here is another anonymous proxy connection link to try:

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