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Protesting compulsory hijab rule, Soumya Swaminathan pulls out of Iran chess tournament

Woman Grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan has withdrawn from the Asian Nations Cup Chess Championship to be held in Iran next month objecting to the country’s compulsory headscarf rule.

In a Facebook post last week, city girl Soumya, who had won the World Junior Girls’ Championship in Argentina in 2009, called the Iranian law of “compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights, including my right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.”

“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,” said the 29-year-old in her post which went viral on social media.

The tournament is to be held in Hamadan from July 26 to August 4.

Swaminathan, ranked 97 in the world among women chess players, further remarked that she was “disappointed” to see that player’s rights and welfare being given scant importance while organising official championships.

Rebuking chess authorities for not taking the players’ considerations into account while choosing venues, Swaminathan said: “I understand the organizers expecting us to wear our national team dress or formals or sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely there is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in Sports.”

She further asserted that despite certain compromises a sportsperson might make, “some things could not be compromised upon.”

In 2016, Indian pistol shooter Heena Sidhu had similarly pulled out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship in Iran owing to the compulsory hijab rule for women athletes.

In 2016, Georgian-American chess champion Nazi Paikidze boycotted the world championship in Tehran, taking to Instagram to call the hijab law “oppressive”.

In 2017 the Iranian Chess Federation banned 19-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani – the country’s second woman international chess master - for attending competitions abroad without wearing the headscarf, compelling her to play from the U.S. side.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 8:43:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/protesting-compulsory-hijab-rule-soumya-swaminathan-pulls-out-of-iran-chess-tournament/article24150895.ece

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