Female Chess Players Speak Out About Being Forced to Wear Hijab in Championship Next Year

Female chess players will be required to wear hijabs for the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran.

The Women's World Chess Championship 2017 is scheduled to be held in Tehran, Iran, in the month of February. Many of the participants are not happy with the venue because the country has strict laws for women on how to dress and behave in public.

Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has made it mandatory for all women to wear Hijabs while appearing in public places. It does not matter whether the woman belongs to another religion than Islam or even if the woman is an atheist, she is required to wear the traditional veil called a Hijab, usually worn by Muslim women. The law is strictly enforced by the country's notorious morality police; any woman found in public places not wearing a Hijab will be arrested, admonished or fined. There is already a warning from the U.S. Department of State in place to its citizens that they may be kidnapped or imprisoned unjustly in Iran just because they are U.S. citizens.

According to FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) or the World Chess Federation, Iran was the only country proposed to host the championship, and is the reason why they awarded the event to Iran. FIDE rules and regulations do not say that the participants are required to wear a Hijab. However, it highly recommends that the players follow the host country's local laws. The organization has not yet received any formal complaints from the players regarding the venue. Susan Polgar, chair of FIDE’s Commission for Women’s Chess, in an interview given to the Telegraph said, the players should respect the "cultural differences."

A number of Grandmasters have accused FIDE of looking past its own policy on gender and religious discrimination. It is not just the Hijab that is an issue, but also the fact that an unmarried woman in the county cannot share a room with a man. This means a player would not be able to prepare for the match by visiting a male coach's room. According to the U.S. women's champion, Nazi Paikidze, she would rather boycott the championship than wear a Hijab. “It does not feel safe for women from around the world to play here,” she told Telegraph.

Carla Heredia, former Pan American champion, stated “Sport should be free of discrimination by sex, religion and sexual orientation” and “No institution, no government, nor a Women’s World Chess Championship should force women to wear or to take out a hijab.”

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