Chess players’ objections grow over hijab requirement at World Championships, and a story about Oriana Fallaci

I‘ve posted several times about the decision of FIDE, the international chess organization, to host its Women’s World Championship in Iran next February, requiring players to don the hijab (headscarf). American champion Nazí Paikidze-Barnes objected, refusing to abide by the misogynistic covering laws of Iran and saying she’d boycott the championship. Here’s an update:

First, Nazí’s petition, which began, as I recall, with a goal of 1000 signatures, now has over 15,000. Click on the screenshot below to go to the petition, and please add your name if you agree with her and haven’t yet signed. My big wish was that only half of the subscribers to this site would sign it, and that would be over 20,000 signatures alone! Sadly, I couldn’t rouse that much enthusiasm, but perhaps I can persuade a few more of you to sign. The goal will increase as each previous goal is met, so it’s an open-ended petition with no expiration date I can see. Paikidze-Barnes notes that, in forcing participants to wear hijabs, FIDE is violating its own regulations, as the organization “rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of sex.” Mandatory veiling is, of course, discrimination against women.

And Pikidze-Barnes does offer alternative 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).


As CNS News reports, Nazí’s pettion is gaining supporters:

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov expressed his backing in a series of tweets.

“Hosting an official championship in a repressive theocracy demanding all participants wear hijab is bad even for this corrupt FIDE admin,” he said in one.

“I hope the world’s chessplayers, women and men, find the courage to protest FIDE’s decision,” said another. “Women’s rights are human rights.

Carolina Lujan, an Argentinian woman grandmaster who is one of 64 women around the world who qualifies for the 2017 women’s championship, said in a social media post she was surprised at the FIDE decision to allow Iran to host the event, “knowing some of the laws of this country in relation to human rights and especially those of women.”

“I consider it a danger to me to take part in a competition in a country where by law they can force me to wear hijab or forbid me to work with my trainer in a closed room,” she wrote. “It also scares me that a misunderstanding or my ignorance of the country’s culture can produce an offense that can have me arrested or worse.”

Lujan said she does not intend to boycott the championship, but said she had written to FIDE’s women’s commission to air her concerns, “in the hope they help us finding a solution.”

British grandmaster Nigel Short has called the FIDE decision to hold the event in Tehran “scandalous,” and Emil Sutovsky, an Israeli grandmaster who is president of the non-profit Association of Chess Professionals, is urging people in the chess fraternity who share Paikidze-Barnes’ views to speak out.

“I know very well from the conversations with many top women players, that they are unhappy about the venue,” he wrote on Facebook. “I imagine that there are many [national chess] federations who see a clear problem – but still, no clear stand, no statement, no protest.”

Now it’s a bit cowardly for Lujan to protest so vehemently and still take place in the championship, but I do understand that her international ranking would be affected by her opting out. That’s why Paikidze-Barnes’s stand is so courageous. But I still find it puzzling that FIDE would not only violate its own principles and allow sex discrimination in a secular venue (a chess championship, after all, is not held in a mosque), but also require chess players, who are notoriously picky about the conditions of play (remember Bobby Fisher’s complaints about temperature?), to suddenly have to play wearing a covering on their head.

Sadly, FIDE appears to be holding firm, and bad on them:

Sutovsky also said he had received an answer from FIDE to an inquiry about the championship in Tehran: “the contract with Iran is signed, and the players will be required to follow all the local laws in regards to dressing.”

That’s simply reprehensible, but is not surprising in these days of the Regressive Left not only going along with veiling, but positively celebrating it.

I want to add another tale of a gutsy women defying veiling regulations Iran. That woman was the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who died in  2006 but had been famous for her penetrating interviews, often requiring not just courage to ask hard questions, but simple physical courage. One example is her interview with the Iranian mullah Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Daled Amos’s website tells the tale:

For the interview, Fallaci was told she would have to  wear a chador, an open cloak worn by many women in Iran, during the interview,

Which she did.


For a while.

During her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, Fallaci called him a “tyrant,” removed the chador, and threw it to the ground:

OF: I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the “chador”, for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women…. I am not only referring to the dress but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their “chador”. By the way, how can you swim wearing a “chador”?

AK: None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don’t like the Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.

OF: This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I’m going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There!

Ms. Paikidze-Barnes is in that proud tradition, and it pains me to envision a group of non-Muslim women playing chess in a big room while wearing headscarves. It’s the very picture of religious subjugation of women.

h/t: Malgorzata


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink


  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    At the very least, go over and sign the petition. It will auto fill and you don’t even have to type.

  3. moleatthecounter
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Get signing folks! Please.. This is important. Share it on Twitter, Facebook.. spread the word!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 3:48 am | Permalink

      Been there, done it, where’s my T shirt?

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink


  5. Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I already signed and shared the petition. Everyone should do it.

  6. joanfaiola
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Signed today.

  7. Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I signed early on, and would sign again and again if it would do any good. What kind of “incentive” did FIDE receive in order to make this very stupid and disgusting decision?!

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      FIDE is notoriously corrupt, so I think you’re correct – there was a bribe.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        I think there was a bribe too.

        However, I want to know why it appears that not a single national chess federation is speaking out against the international body.

        Why are they all being so effing gutless, and why are the only protests coming from individual players? And why does everyone keep voting for board members they must know are corrupt?

        • Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Well one of the accusations is that the voting is rigged/members bribed. No one wants to boycott anything because then that federation will probably be banned from FIDE events, effectively ruining their players careers or chasing the players away to play for another federation. There is also the history of splitting. In 1993, Kasparov and Nigel Short split from FIDE because of corruption and held the World Championship match in a new federation. There was now two federations with separate “World Champions.” This wasn’t particularly satisfying and probably hurt chess. The title was reunified in 2006. I don’t like FIDE and think something should be done, but those are some of the reasons why it would be difficult.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

            Interesting. Thanks.

        • ratabago
          Posted October 15, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          The United States Chess Federation has spoken in favour of Nazi Paikidze, and they publicise her petition.

          I don’t think any bribe was needed by Iran. Sadly, it is very difficult to get a venue for the Womens’ World Championships. AFAIK there was only one bidder for the last championship, and Iran was the only bidder for this one.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted October 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

            Good on them for speaking out.

            I wonder why no one wants to hold the tournament? I assume some of it might have to do with a negative Cost/Benefit Ratio, but I would also think the corruption within the FIDE might be an issue.

      • Gordon
        Posted October 14, 2016 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Is there by chance any international sporting organisation that insn’t?

  8. joanfaiola
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I note that there has been a backlash against the petition and boycott and one of the reasons given is that we westerners cannot judge or comment on what constitutes oppression. My feelings of repugnance towards the hijab are based on my personal feelings, and as a woman how I would dislike being told how to dress, or do anything, by any man in an oppressive society.

    • eric
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      This reasoning can be turned on itself. As in: an Iranian official has no right to comment on what constitutes oppression for a foreign woman. If the woman says the dress code is oppressive to them, it is, and must be dropped.

      But that won’t fly, because consistency is not an important criteria the crowd that uses this sort of rhetoric.

  9. David Hughes
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I signed the petition. Totally on board. But I want to ask, why is there a separate women’s chess championship? What’s the justification for segregating competition by gender?

    • Richard Bond
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      If you had been following this from PCC(E)’s first mention of it, you would have seen several comments to the effect that there are open tournaments, open to both men and women who can qualify, and women-only tournaments. There is no discrimination against women.

      • David Hughes
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        I wasn’t implying that I felt there was any discrimination against women. I’m just wondering why have gender specific tournaments at all? What’s the justification?

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          I personally don’t know but I believe it was a move to encourage more women into the game.

          Of course, caring so little about women that you would hold a championship in Iran rather damages that message.

        • eric
          Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          I think Heather is right. Someone on the previous message board said that the ratio of men:women in chess is something like 20:1. That would be a little disconcerting to a woman starting off. Even assuming chess playing men behave no worse than other men, that’s still a lot of crap a woman player is going to have to put up with at an open tournament, just due to numbers.

          If its any consolation, I’d be fully supportive of a men’s only tournament if the numbers ever reached 1:20, too.

          • Craw
            Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            That is right. It was to encourage women to play. Otherwise almost no women would be competitive at the highest levels.
            There is in fact only one woman in history who was truly part of the very top level elite. That is Judit Polgar, who is alas the leader of the bad guys here.

  10. Leigh
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Just to let you know, I did sign this petition when it first came up. Thank you for letting us all know about the problem. I have shared with my friends as well.

  11. Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “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).”

    That would be worth about as much as a guarantee that a Rolex bought from a stranger in a dark alley was genuine.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Oh, the Rolex’s we use to get in Itaewon were worth at least $25.00.

  12. rwilsker
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    This isn’t a matter of the “Regressive Left”, but simply one of business as usual, which, if not forced by enough public pressure to act morally, acts expediently.

    As much as you hate the “Regressive Left”, and I share much of your feeling about this issue, it seems that this blog is getting into the same easy name calling that is endemic to the right wing. I’d ask you to think about that.

    One other comment, though I expect I’m getting dangerously close to being banned: it’s a mistake to use Breitbart as a standard for anything ethical sites should do. Will they, once in a great while, print a paragraph that’s accurate? Yes, though only because in that rare case the truth serves their purpose. But they push so much propaganda and disinformation, in the clear service of ethically challenged (and, bluntly speaking, lunatic) causes, that they should no more be held up as a place to visit than one should encourage people to use a broken clock because it’s correct twice a day.

  13. rwilsker
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    And, of course, I did sign the petition.

  14. Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    It’s the fear of being labeled an Islamophobe, as well as sexism that stifles the volume of outrage this deserves.

  15. Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    which began, as I recall, with a goal of 1000 signatures

    For the record, I’m pretty sure the ‘goal’ is something Change automatically sets, and updates as goals are reached. It is therefore kind of artificial.

    What really matters is the numbers, and we should have a lot more of them.

  16. Johan Richter
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I signed it this time, so your repeated reminders had some effect.

    I suppose the most important people to get on aboard would be the contestants. If there is a widespread boycott than perhaps FIDE will listen.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Don’t think Bobby Fisher can be taken as representative of chess players, or of any other sub-classification of homo sapiens, on the matter of appropriate room temperature, or on any other human variable.

    He sure did bring a heightened interest to those world championship matches in Reykjavik against Boris Spassky, though. It was like following Ali-Frazier in the sports pages.

  18. jimroberts
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink


  19. Johan Richter
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    By the way, the rating of a player who did not participate would not be affected. It increases if you win games and decreases if you lose them, as simple as that. The position in the rankings might go down or up depending on how your competitors do at the tournament, but there are always other tournaments to enter instead. What players would lose out on is the chance to win a world championship.

    • eric
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Does FIDE factor in game activity (i.e. have a decay function if you do not play for a long time)? I know other individual sports sometimes do.

  20. Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Petition signed

  21. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    And Pikidze-Barnes does offer alternative solutions:

    Surely there is at least one other alternative : compete in the contest, but phone (or otherwise “technology”) your moves in due to the unsafeness of entering Iran.
    Iran is, TTBOMK, one of those states that carries the death penalty for atheism. So, for a significant number of competitors, attending the meeting in person is likely to put them at real personal risk. Which should be adequate grounds for attending “remotely”.
    Hmm, a job opportunity arises. In a country where, as an atheist, I’d be liable to the death penalty. I wonder if I should apply for the job, and just keep my mouth shut. No – the latter clause wouldn’t work.

  22. Wildhog
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Jerry, but with regard to the hijab, the misogyny narrative is misapplied.

    Most women in Iran want mandatory hijab:

    Most women in the US want mandatory tops for women:

    These facts are not consistent with the narrative that mandatory coverings for women are expressions of misogyny.

    Women’s preference for mandatory body covering is better explained as an expression of intrasexual competition among women, and Sexual Economics Theory.
    Dr. Kathleen Vohs (University of Minnesota):

    Starting at 10:22, she discusses conservative dress as a function of sexual economics.

    Polygamy has the same effect of men outnumbering women, because for every man with, say, three wives, two men get none. And not only does that mean that single men outnumber single women, a more relevant comparison in a polygamous society is the number of single women to the total number of men, since married men can marry again. Thus, from a numbers perspective, polygamy gives women an upper hand in the mating game, and Sexual Economics Theory predicts that in that situation, women will behave and dress more conservatively than American women. And that is indeed what we see.

    • Posted October 14, 2016 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      You’re severely deluded. Pew won’t even POLL in Iran because people don’t feel free to answer such questions honestly: the hijab is mandatory in Iran, and if you say it shouldn’t be, you’re in danger, even in a telephone poll. When the hijab became mandatory after the Revolution, women revolted en masse, and were simply put down by the government. Before the revolution, very few women wore the hijab. That should be enough to tell you that the women in the poll, at least, aren’t answering voluntarily.

      If you don’t see the difference between people’s fear of answering in Iran compared to the U.S., you need to think about this issue harder.

      As for your snarky opening line, you need to learn some politeness. But that stupid “poll” you cite is meaningless. Go see why Pew didn’t survey Iranians in its recent poll on Muslim attitudes towards religious dictates.

    • eric
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Thus, from a numbers perspective, polygamy gives women an upper hand in the mating game

      It might if there were no social controls on their choice of partner, and if they had equal rights to inheritance, jobs, etc. But none of that is actually true. They are at least partly kept property. So in reality, polygamy gives the upper hand to the men who socially and financially control their families’ women.

  23. nicky
    Posted October 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Great admirer of Oriana Fallaci, got to that after reading “A Man” about Alexandros Panagoulis. Panagoulis failed in an attempt to kill the Greek dictator Papadopoulos, was captured and severely tortured, very severely tortured. Despite his failure to kill Papadopoulos, he never broke under torture, one of my heroes.
    Oriana was prone to take on cases other journalists would desist, and was -as Jerry illustrated- courageous. The only mystifying quirk about her is that she was vehemently opposed to homosexuality, or rather the gay community. I have no idea what to make of that.
    (Now that would probably disqualify her for any positive with the regressive left, but she had more courage in her little finger than all the SJW’s in their entire bodies).

    Can’t sign the petition a second time, but I’ll try to draw attention to it among some friends.

    • nicky
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Three years after the fall of the Greek Junta, Panagoulis died in a suspicious car ‘accident’. Oriana argues the murder was carried out by Michael Steffas, as revenge from the deposed dictators (Papadopoulos and Iohannidis). But I guess I’m diverting here.

  24. Posted October 15, 2016 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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