Soumya Swaminathan, Grandmaster and former world junior girls’ champion, has apparently pulled out of the Asian Team Chess Championship. Iran’s Hamadan will host the championship. It enforces a “compulsory headscarf” on women. Soumya, refusing to wear it, has opted out of it. The event will take place between July 26 and August 4.

Calls Iran law violative of basic human rights

The 29-year-old chess star, who is India’s No. 5 in rankings, posted her displeasure on her Facebook account. “I do not wish to be forced to wear a headscarf or burqa. I find the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights, including my right to freedom of expression and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is to not go to Iran,” she wrote.

In 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had pulled out from the Asian Airgun meet in Iran for the same reason. The Pune girl mentioned she first agreed to be a part of the Indian team because Bangladesh was to be the host country and the dates were different. However, later, when the new venue and new dates came up, Soumya opted out. When asked if All India Chess Federation (AICF) should have protested against the decision of choosing Iran, she told TOI, “I can’t expect everyone to be of the same opinion as me. It’s a subjective issue.”

Expresses disappointment over authorities’ decision

Soumya, expressing her disappointment over the official body, also wrote, “I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given little importance while allotting and/or organising official championships.”

Earlier, even Ukraine’s Muzhychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya, have refused to play tournaments in Saudi Arabia. They believe these rules are violations of human rights and gender equality. The champion team from the Iran event will qualify for the World Team Chess Championship. Iran is also hosting the open Asian Team championship.

Soumya’s post received hundreds of comments. While a majority expressed their appreciation and support, some did not comply with her action of dropping out. Last year, American chess player Nazi Paikidze also refused to play the knockout World Championship over the same issue. She blatantly refused to wear the hijab.

Here are some reactions:

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Picture Credit: Azwishesh

Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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