Women threaten Iran chess contest boycott over need to cover up

Players protest requirement to wear hijab at world championships, say federation is ignoring women’s rights violations

US Women’s Chess Champion Nazi Paikidze (YouTube screenshot)
US Women’s Chess Champion Nazi Paikidze (YouTube screenshot)

Some of the world’s top female chess players may boycott the 2017 Women’s World Championships, to be held in Iran, after being told they would need to cover their heads during the tournament.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has now come under criticism for agreeing to Iran’s strict clothing requirements for women.

US Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze said she would not be attending, telling the Telegraph “It is absolutely unacceptable to host one of the most important women’s tournaments in a venue where, to this day, women are forced to cover up with a hijab.”

She added: “I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women’s rights are being severely restricted in general.”

Former Pan American champion Carla Heredia agreed, saying “No woman should be forced to wear a hijab.”

FIDE, meanwhile, has called on players to respect “cultural differences.”

The organization’s chair on the Commission for Women’s Chess, Susan Polgar, told the Telegraph: “I have travelled to nearly 60 countries. When I visited different places with different cultures, I like to show my respect by dressing up in their traditional style of clothing. No one asked me to do it. I just do it out of respect.”

She added that any players with reservations on the matter could voice their concerns “and we can address it in our next meeting.”

Meanwhile a leading Iranian player has urged women not to boycott the games.

Mitra Hejazipour told the Guardian such action would undermine women’s progress in Iran.

“This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen,” she said. “It’s not right to call for a boycott. These games are important for women in Iran. it’s an opportunity for us to show our strength.”

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