U.S. Chess Federation supports boycott of hijab-requiring Women’s Championships in Iran

I’ve posted several times about the World Chess Federation’s (FIDE’s) decision to hold the Women’s World Championships in Iran in February, and how some women players have objected because they’d be forced to wear the headscarf (hijab) while playing. One of them, Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, who happens to be the U.S. women’s champion, was vociferous in saying she’d not only boycott the championships if they didn’t eliminate the hijab requirement or move the tournament, but started a Change.Org petition that now has nearly 16,000 signers.

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Paikidze-Barnes

So far FIDE hasn’t budged, but there’s still some good news. As The Torygraph reports, the U.S. Chess Federation, and its Danish and English counterparts, have come out in support of the boycott:

Gary Walters, the US Chess Federation’s president, said his board warned Fide it strongly opposes Iran’s strict Islamic dress code being imposed at next year’s world championships.

It follows widespread anger, revealed by The Telegraph, after Fide awarded the championships to Tehran, where female players will face punishment if they refuse to cover up.

. . . US Chess Federation board president Gary Walters said: “We absolutely support Nazi Paikidze. Women should not be oppressed for cultural, religious or ethnic reasons.

“US Chess wholeheartedly supports Paikidze. She has taken a principled position of which we can be proud.

“Last week, US Chess delivered a letter to Fide asking it to clarify any dress or other behavior that may be imposed upon the participants by the host government or federation.

“We reminded Fide that the forced wearing of a hijab or other dress is contrary to Fide’s handbook, as well as against the International Olympic Committee’s principles, an organization Fide has sought to join for a substantial period of time.

“We hope that each of our qualifiers, along with other participants around the world, will be able to participate in the Women’s World Championship without the distraction of political or religious concerns.”

The English and Danish chess federations have also issued statements opposing the decision, as has the Association of Chess Professionals.

The Iranians, and FIDE are standing firm:

However, last week the head of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said the calls for a boycott were unreasonable.

Everywhere in the world, there are rules on how to cover your body. There is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public,” he said.

Fide’s chief executive Geoffrey Borg, also told a Tehran press conference last week that federation members had not expressed “the slightest objection” when Iran was selected as host.

“Chess players should respect the laws of countries,” Borg said. “The only objections have been on personal pages, for which Fide is not responsible.”

The Iranian excuse is bogus since the stricture is not a societal one about nudity, but a religious one based on Islamic “modesty.” And FIDE’s stand is simply reprehensible, for, as Paikidze-Barnes noted in her petition, FIDE’s own regulations “reject discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of sex”  (see below). And, of course, women are being treated in a discriminatory fashion here. So even if FIDE says that the objections are on personal pages, the organization doesn’t have enough self-respect to enforce its own dictates. They’re spineless.

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I suspect the tournament will go on as scheduled, but my hope is that it’s boycotted. And the brave women who do—for they face career setbacks by missing the World Championship—will send a strong message not only to Iran (and a supportive message to Iranian women), but also to Western countries that, in their craven cowardice, refuse to stand up to religiously-based misogyny.

 

h/t: Malgorzata

52 Comments

  1. Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    time to not play with lesser culture nations

    replace the UN with a Federation that separates nations by information, industrial or stone age cultures and they don’t get to tech anymore

    • Posted October 16, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Iran actually has a great culture. Unfortunately, Iranians succumbed to the Islamist revolution and now cannot get the Mullahs off their backs. I suppose the same can happen in any country infected by Islam.

      • Posted October 16, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        they were one of the original post ice age cultures and when Alexander did his dash across the known world, they read that and figured out an optimal numbering system. so, they did once have, until the current abrahamic dark ages, yes. but until they grow up as a nation, we shouldn’t be playing with them or conferring them credibility.

    • eric
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Not sure what ‘the UN’ has to do with any of this; FIDE is a private organization.

      Coincidentally, FIDE has a picture of the Syrian women’s team on their web page’s front page right now (congratulating them for a win). None of the three women team members are wearing the hijab.

      • Posted October 17, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        League of Nations, UN and now we need something else

        • eric
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          I understand what your political opinion is, I just fail to see how this story is relevant to it. How does FIDE’s choice illustrate some dysfunction within the UN?

          • Posted October 17, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            the UN creates the illusion of national credibility, when we really should not be conferring that on backassward nations – only cultures of same advancement levels should trade/culture exchange and no tech for the bronze agers. .

          • Posted October 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            thank you for asking me to explain further, instead of assigning a position to me and telling me that I’m wrong. Micro-appreciation, eh.

          • eric
            Posted October 17, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            I still don’t see how the UN has anything to do with it. As far as I know, FIDE selected Iran because they offered; Iran didn’t gain any chess or international event hosting cache from being a UN member state.

            Also, a brief googling brings up the fact that FIDE has hosted chess tournaments in Taiwan, which is not a UN member state. So obviously UN membership is not something they give a lot of thought to.

  2. Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    sub

    • GBJames
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      sub₂

  3. Pierre Masson
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    “…but my hope is that it’s boycotted. And the brave women who do…”

    Hopefully, male chess players will also boycott the competition.

    • Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s the Women’s World Championships, so although men can object, or not attend to watch (if that’s possible), they can’t boycott it in the same sense as women.

  4. ploubere
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Nudity prohibitions apply to both sexes, while the hijab applies only to women, and is overtly based on religious reasons. Now there is some discrepancy in the U.S., where men can be topless but women cannot, but those rules are local ordinances, not federal, and apply only to public areas. You could have a chess tournament in a non-public setting where everybody is buck naked, and the government couldn’t arrest you, and in some localities, you could even do it in a public space.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      As in Ontario, Canada. It is legal for women to go topless in public. See “Gwen Jacob 1991”.

      • Ray Leonard
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        Also New York city.

        • Barbara Radcliffe
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:32 am | Permalink

          And even here in South Australia, we have a nude beach… I’ve only been there once, in the middle of winter, when with to female friends we were checking out a possible site for a geology field trip. So we were swathed in multiple layers of clothing, hats, gloves and so on. A bloke ran past us wearing running shoes. He reached the interesting geological formation and returned running towards us. He felt it necessary to ask us ‘what is the time? I don’t have my watch!’

  5. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    “There is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public.”

    Not true. There’s a beach in Cuba, at a resort that I go to sometimes, where everyone is nude. Including me.

    • Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Yes, there are nudist beaches also in other countries.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Including Scotland.
        You can recognise Scottish nudists by the very fine shade of blue of their skins, instead of the normal milky-white with ginger blotches.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:01 am | Permalink

          😀

          • Reggie Cormack
            Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

            😉

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted October 17, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            Are those teethe bared, or chattering?

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted October 18, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

              Yes!

  6. Filippo
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    ” , , , the head of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said . . . ‘there is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public’ . . . .”

    Fatuous statement.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      sub

    • Will G
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      I read that and I wonder how much Mehrdad really believes in the virtues of the headscarf. If he did, and had good reason, he wouldn’t engage in this whataboutery. Is he a political hack, just reading the Ayatollah’s talking points, or is this something he endorses, but that he knows isn’t palatable to people outside of his narrow view of Islamic culture?

      • Johan Richter
        Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink

        Plenty of Iranians do not support wearing the headscarf but Iran is a dictatorship so protesting is dangerous. I am not sure how well-connected a president of the Iranian chess federation must be with the regime, but surely it is possible that he would prefer there to be no headscarf requirement. At the same time, given that there is such a requirement, he still wants Iran to be able to host tournaments.

  7. Bechamel
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    “The Iranian excuse is bogus since the stricture is not a societal one about nudity, but a religious one based on Islamic ‘modesty.'”

    How is this different? Not allowing women to show a nipple is about modesty, as is not allowing them to show an uncovered head (and “societal” vs “religious” is arguable and even if it weren’t would be a distinction without a difference). You’re really just saying that you accept the former standard of modesty and reject the latter.

    As much as I dislike enforced modesty standards the Iranians do have a point.

    • Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make here. Are you saying that the Iranians have the right to impose whatever modesty standards they want since other places have secular modesty standards? What if Iran required playing in a full burqa with eye slits only. Would you say that that would be okay. The fact is that not all modesty standards are perfectly equal and, in fact, I don’t favor laws that let men go topless in public but prohibit women from doing so. Or are you saying that we must respect Iran’s requiring hijabs (or full burqas , if that were the law) SO LONG AS WESTERN COUNTRIES PROHIBIT COMPLETE NUDITY IN PUBLIC?

      Sorry, but the Iranians’ “point” is a strained one. Further, it would make players physically uncomfortable to have to play in a headscarf; we all know how touchy chess players are about the conditions of tournament play.

    • Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      The boycott is not about clothing at all.

      It is about the unequal treatment of women.

      • somer
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:16 am | Permalink

        Exactly.

        As for societal norms for dress, they are just that – societal norms. The hijab is not a societal norm, even in Iran. What women wear there is imposed by law and male leaders of the majority religion.

        Those men have imposed a very conservative version of Islam on the entire population that includes women being treated like second-class citizens. Iran needs to sort itself out in relation to that, but anytime an outsider is in a position to stand up for what is right, they have a moral obligation to make that stand imo.

        I personally am sick of so-called liberals who stick up for things like Iran’s “right” to treat its women like sh*t and thereby forget the liberal value of equality for all.

        • Posted October 17, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          “I personally am sick of so-called liberals who stick up for things like Iran’s “right” to treat its women like sh*t and thereby forget the liberal value of equality for all.”
          Hear, hear!

        • Martin Levin
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          Couldn’t agree more.

    • eric
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      I think ploubere already made the slam dunk argument against your point: in the west, if chess members really wanted nudity, FIDE could easily give it to them. Rent a private building, hold the tournament as a private event, and let everyone go nude or topless. The country wouldn’t say boo about it. Not so in Iran. Moreover, if women chess players were adamant about going topless in public to make a point about gender parity, there are plenty of places FIDE could pick from where that is legal, too.

      But the bottom line is that none of the FIDE competitors are complaining about western country dress restrictions, while many of the women competitors are complaining about this restriction. So FIDE needs to address this restriction right now. Any hypothetical objection some future competitor may have about not being allowed to go nude or topless in the west can be addressed when such a complaint actually occurs.

  8. Sastra
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Queen takes Bishop.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Check.

  9. Christine Gaigal
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    If everyone boycotts this event then there will be no change in the standings and FIDE will think with more care where these competitions are held.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I think not. If there are no games played in the “championship” then surely the titles would be awarded according to the ratings at the start of the competition period.
      Unfortunately, trying to play that line is, if I get this right, a Prisoner’s Dilemma with the reward for defection.
      I suspect that a boycott and walkout would only work if the boycotters and walkers put together an alternative world championship event with enough support that FIDE couldn’t ignore. However we know that the ruling bodies of sports can be remarkably thick-skinned when it comes to challenges from outside – witness the decades of corruption in that “Olympics” fiasco.

  10. aljones909
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Some genius put this together. Iranian TV coverage of the olympics.
    http://tinyurl.com/ztyz49c

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 1:29 am | Permalink

      Oooh, bet those naughty little glimpses when an athlete outran the black boxes & asterisks excited untold numbers of male Irani viewers!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      Ha ha! That was hilarious. 😀

    • Nell Whiteside
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      LOL. Incredible that this is possible in the 21st century! I wonder who the censors were?

  11. Ray Leonard
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    “Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said the calls for a boycott were unreasonable.
    Everywhere in the world, there are rules on how to cover your body. There is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public,” he said.”
    Nope, not so. Try here; all the facilites one could require: –
    http://www.euronat.fr/en/

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      If it’s in France, then the women who do wear certain head coverings will be arrested.

  12. Larry Smith
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I suspect that this boycott will not accomplish its immediate aim of getting FIDE to move the venue. There are at least two reasons why I say this.

    First, it is my understanding is that there were no hosting offers other than from Iran. Thus, FIDE can always fall back on that excuse. And it’s very unlikely that any other country would be willing or able to step in at such a late date.

    Second, though it appears that the US, Denmark, and UK chess federations are supporting the boycott, those countries are not the women chess powers of the world at present. Stronger players than Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, such as Humpy Koneru of India or the Muzychuk sisters of the Ukraine, have played wearing a hijab before and will do so again. (Koneru has complained a bit about this being uncomfortable, but that she got used to it.)

    I think that unless a majority of key nations boycott the locale, or if enough strong players refuse to play and thus turn the tournament into a farce, FIDE will not move the tournament. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Nazi P-B and others should not boycott. Women’s suffrage was not resolved after one rally, after all.

    Re: the “every culture has dress code guidelines” argument. The problem here in my opinion is that this is an invitational tournament in which anyone aspiring to playing for the women’s world title must play. If Iran wanted to host an open chess tournament with a strict dress code, that would be their business. Players could then choose to play or not. But as Iran is not adhering to FIDE’s guidelines in this regard, clearly this closed tournament should not be held in this country unless their dress code restrictions are lifted.

  13. Johan Richter
    Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    I do think the Iranian chess president has a point. I fail to see the distinction between a secular dress code and a religious one. None of this is a reason not to dislike wearing the hijab if you do, or protesting against FIDE not taking into account the views of the female players before awarding Iran the tournament.

    • somer
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Because calling something sacred that is designed to treat women as secondary beings is not an excuse to impose it on the chess players. Its a question of principle that we don’t recognise such religious practises as a good element of culture. Slavery was a sacred element of culture for the American South before the civil war.

    • eric
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Difference 1: western countries don’t enforce dress code laws at private, closed events. You want to host an all-nude chess tournament at your house, you can. The US Federal government is not going to tell you that you can’t. Iran, however, will.

      Difference 2: western codes tend to be more democratically derived. Iran’s is a code imposed on an unwilling population through authoritarian dictatorship.

      Difference 3: none of the actual participants are complaining about the dress codes at western events. If and when they ever do, we can talk about how terrible it is that the US is not letting some woman competitor go topless (or whatever). But my guess is, if that highly unlikely situation ever actually occurred, event organizers in a western host country would find it relatively easy to get an exception to local laws in order to accommodate the contestant (because…see ‘difference 1’). Unlike Iran.

  14. Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    “US Chess Federation board president Gary Walters said: ‘We absolutely support Nazi Paikidze. Women should not be oppressed for cultural, religious or ethnic reasons.'”

    And what are the reasons that they should be oppressed, Gary?

    • Pikolo
      Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be a d%&#.
      If he wanted to be more precise than “women should not be oppressed”, he had to give examples, relevant to the situation. And he did.
      On top of that, logic will tell you, that there is no such implication in place


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