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.
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.
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.