By Adebayo Williams
Female chess players participating at the world championship in Iran have threatened to boycott the competition after Iran ordered them to wear hijabs or face arrest. The World Chess Federation has been accused of neglect after it advised the players to abide by the rules and wear hijabs. US women’s champion Nazi Paikidze said the venue was not suitable for the games and organisers should have looked elsewhere. She said she would not participate if the situation remains the same next year, when the tournament is due to hold.
“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.
“I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women’s rights are being severely restricted in general. It does not feel safe for women from around the world to play here,” she said.
However, American Grandmaster Susan Polgar, chairman of the world body’s Commission for Women’s Chess, has said the players need to respect ‘cultural differences’. She said she had done same while competing in other countries and had dressed up according to their traditions.
“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.
“I personally would have no issues with wearing a head scarf (hijab) as long as it is the same to all players.
“I cannot speak on behalf of others but from my personal conversations with various players in the past year, they had no real issues with it,” she told Daily Mail.
The headscarves have been mandatory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.