Indian chess star pulls out of Asian chess championship, refusing to wear a hijab

Our hero of the week is Soumya Swaminathan, a woman grandmaster chess champion from India (she’s 29). She was also the former World Girls’ Junior Chess Champion. Now she’s deliberately hurt her career in the cause of women’s rights—and her own rights—by pulling out the Indian National Team that will play at the Asian Nations Cup to be held in Iran from July 26 to August 4. Iran, of course, requires women to wear hijabs in public, something that isn’t just tolerated by many Western feminists and Control Leftists, but positively extolled. They rarely mention the many women who, under compulsion, wear the garment when they don’t want to, which of course is the point of the My Stealthy Freedom and White Wednesdays movements in Iran. I expect Swaminathan mentions the burkha because she’d have to cover her whole body if she went outside.

Here’s Swaminathan’s statement from her Facebook page (click on screenshot to go to the post):


This is not voluntary veiling, but compulsory veiling, and, as in the cases listed below, unconscionable for several reasons. First, compulsory veiling is a violation of women’s rights, mandating how to dress—and doing that so they don’t excite the lust of men. Second, it’s forcing people of all faiths, or no faith, to adopt a faith-based dress code. Finally, playing world-class competitive chess is a grueling act, and you should be absolutely comfortable in your clothes. A cloth over your head isn’t exactly conducive to that.

I always admire people who give up professional advancement if that conflicts with their principles, and she is one of them. Kudos to her, and I wish her weil.

As the Times of India reports,

Soumya said that when she first gave the nod to be a part of the Indian team, the host country was to be Bangladesh and the dates were different. “But once the new dates and new venue came up, I excused myself,” she added. When asked if the All India Chess Federation (AICF) should have protested against the decision to allot the tournament to Iran, Pune girl Soumya told TOI: “I can’t expect everyone to be of the same opinion as me. It’s subjective issue.”

However, in her Facebook message, Soumya blasted the officialdom. “I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given little importance while allotting and/or organising official championships,” she wrote.

Among other chess players, Ukraine’s Muzhychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya, have been vocal about human rights and gender equality and have refused to play premier tournaments in Saudi Arabia. The champion team from the Iran event will qualify for the World Team Chess Championship. Iran is also scheduled to host the open Asian Team championship concurrently.

Bharat Singh Chauhan, All India Chess Federation honorary secretary, did not respond to requests for comment.

. . . . Soumya’s Facebook post received hundreds of comments, majority of them appreciating her brave stance.

American chess player Nazi Paikidze also refused to play the knockout World Championship in Tehran, Iran, last year over the same issue.

Here’s an interview with Swaminathan on WION, India’s global news network. She speaks as she writes, with dignity but with firmness.

h/t: Grania


  1. DrBrydon
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Good for her, and that’s a good statement on Facebook.

  2. W.T. Effingham
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    That young lady is a polymath with a bright future.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    “ … doing that so they don’t excite the lust of men. “

    You’re just making that up – it’s for modesty. That’s completely unfair. Modesty is a good thing.

    ^^^^attempted sarcasm or satire, not sure what.

  4. BJ
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Unbelievable! I guess some people just don’t like being free and empowered!

  5. Fat Bastard
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Western “feminists” praising the (obvious) subjugation of women under Islam, while at the same time vilifying the heroic Ayaan Hirsi Ali for speaking out against the horrific patriarchal yoke that is Islam.

    You really can’t make this shit up.

  6. Kevin
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the famous chess scene in the “Thomas Crown Affair”

    Steve McQueen was evidently suffering from “Islamic” thoughts here, which inevitably led to the “mate” at the end of the episode.

    That scene would not have worked with a Burka now would it?

    • BJ
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      It’s a good movie and a good scene, but it brings up something I’ve been thinking about for a few years now.

      Many good films from this era have overbearing music and direction in some scenes — hell, sometimes even the entire film. Imagine how much better this scene would be without the music (or, perhaps, with only some very soft strings or sax), and without the constant zooms, dutch angles, etc.: a simple game of chess and seduction, cutting between the characters’ faces and the pieces on the board, with the occasional medium shot from the side showing them sitting across from each other. Instead, we get the irritatingly intrusive music and constant cuts between close-ups, medium shots, master shot, and random shots like the overhead zoom-out from the chess board and dutch angles from below it. And the scene goes on for too long because Jewison can’t stop indulging in the constant shots of their faces and Dunaway’s seductive movements (which are used well until they, like everything else in the scene, become overused).

      Of course, this was the era of directors experimenting with new techniques, but, for me, it often severely hampers what should be great scenes, or even entire films. This era needed to happen if we were ever to have what came next, but that doesn’t change how much it often detracts from scenes like this. It’s the use of excellent new techniques with no restraint or sense of their place in the film.

      This type of direction did work much better for Jewison in Rollerball, but that’s because it matched the film’s theme and setting better.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink


        • BJ
          Posted June 13, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          What did you think of the remake? I just watched it again the other day. I love it, and I love Brosnan and Russo.

          • Craw
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:17 am | Permalink

            It’s better. The first one is a misfire, partly for the reasons you give, but the remake works pretty well, especially the cute heist bit.

            • BJ
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

              Yeah, my other problem with the original is that I’ve always felt like McQueen didn’t fit the role.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            I haven’t seen it.

    • nicky
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Lovely scene, and it gives a fresh meaning to ‘mate’ in chess 🙂 . Did not like the music though (my curmudgeonly part). It would not have worked with a burka or niqab, I guess, but definitely with a shayla, hijab or even al-amira.

  7. nicky
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The sad thing is that chess is thought to have been invented in what is now Iran.
    The allotting of the world championships to Iran, suffering under a theocratic yoke, forcing muslim -and even non-muslim- women to a dress code that is symbol and instrument of suppression of women is deeply unconscionable, of course. Kudos to Soumya Swaminathan!

  8. Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    They should put a hijab on all the chess queens on the board. 🙂

    Chess tournaments require no eccentric sets- all must be the “Staunton standard”. If that were not the case, and I was a player and feeling like living dangerously I might bring this set to the tournament.

    • Posted June 13, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Also, how do they handle the bishops? Surely having Christian clerics around isn’t good for an Islamic republic? 😉

  10. Martin Levin
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Pawn to king’s mullah 4.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Janissary to Sultan’s mullah 4 🙂

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Good on her.

    It’s frustrating that the World Chess Federation (or whatever they’re called) continue to have tournaments in countries that require women to dress in a certain way.

    I’m pretty sure there’s been at least one tournament in a country where the law is Sharia where Jews were forrbidden from attending.

    I wonder if there are bribery issues here like with the soccer world cup.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I also thought of soccre world cup in Russia. As if elite sport has become a tool to advertise odious regimes!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Yep. I had visions of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It was a great propaganda coup for Hitler. There was a huge crackdown on dissent to get people to behave, and people were taught what to say.

        In Russia they’ve been teaching workers who will come into contact with foreigners how to smile and laugh! There are classes! One of the reports about it I saw included an interview with a Russian woman stopped and questioned by Police because she was smiling. It was unusual behaviour, and got their attention.

  12. Posted June 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    1. Good for her. But why hold the tournament in such a regressive country to begin with?

    2. Why are there male/female divisions in chess? It isn’t as if the pieces weigh 300 lbs. I fully get (and support) women’s divisions in basketball, track, etc.

    • Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Well, it’s obvious that men and women have different mental capacities. Right?!! Don’t
      know who’s being protected from whom.

      Or, it could be like the separation of men from women in Muslim religious gatherings.

      Or, the custom of preventing women from mixing with males who are not of their family unless accompanied by a male from the family.

      Whatever, the “reason”, it’s nuts.

      • Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink


      • ratabago
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        This comes up every time women’s chess is mentioned on this site. It puzzles me that it causes so much confusion. There are no male only tournaments. But I know from personal experience, being both an ex player, and ex official*, that for a whole variety of reasons** many women don’t want to play against men, but do want to play competitive chess. And, having seen the behaviour of an extraordinarily obnoxious minority of male chess players, I don’t blame them.

        I saw no reason why a woman who wishes to avoid playing men should be forced to play against me, or give up playing. I still don’t. I’m quite happy to support them in that choice.

        * I served on my state’s match and tournament committee for a year, ran a chess club for 7, and was a Director Of Play for one Interclub Pennant season.

        ** Some of them, for example, are domestic violence victims. Some are just scared of male aggression. Some just find it too tedious dealing with the jerks. Some are just more comfortable playing against other women. I know, because I asked some of them, and listened to their answers.

    • ratabago
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Generally chess tournaments keep going to regressive countries because no one else bids for them. It’s a cheap propaganda opportunity for a country like Iran.

      One of the things that puzzles me is that Iran was the only bidder for the last Women’s World Championships. What are brand managers and advertising people thinking? It’s estimated over 600M active chess players in the world*, and for the most part they have money. There’s an opportunity going begging there.

      *Based on a 2012 worldwide survey of over 1.55M adults by AGON.

    • John Taylor
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:18 am | Permalink

      Women can and do play with the men but they also have seperate woman’s tournaments.

  13. Jonathan Dore
    Posted June 13, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Who the hell keeps awarding women’s chess tournaments to Iran and Saudi Arabia? That’s the third time in two years now. They need to be identified and asked to explain themselves.

  14. Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Kudos to Soumya! And thanks to PCC for such posts.

%d bloggers like this: