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Soumya Swaminathan, who said no to 'hijab', glad her stand has been noted

Soumya Swaminathan. File   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Soumya Swaminathan is overwhelmed by the response she has received following her decision to pull out of the Asian team chess championship to be held in Iran from July 26 because she doesn’t want to wear a hijab.

“When I posted on my Facebook page that I was withdrawing from the Indian team for the Asian event because I did not wish to be forced to wear a hijab or burkha, as I see it as a violation of my human rights, I never imagined that I would be trending on Twitter,” Soumya, a former World junior champion, told The Hindu over phone from Pune on Wednesday. “I am happy to get so much support for my decision and that people in India have become aware of the issue.”

She said the decision wasn’t difficult at all. “I had written to the organisers in Iran asking them whether any exception could be made about wearing the hijab, but they replied in the negative, very politely,” she said. “When I played in Iran seven years ago, I had felt very uncomfortable playing with a hijab. I had decided then that I would never compete in a tournament in which such dress codes were in place.”

She is not the first chess player to have taken such a stance.

Some top players, including reigning champion Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine, had boycotted the Women’s World championship held in Tehran last year. The United States champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes had even started a petition to relocate the tournament, citing religious and sexual discrimination.

“I had signed the petition,” said Soumya. “I believe that sports bodies should ensure that major events are held in countries where freedom for the participants is not denied.”

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 12:26:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/soumya-glad-her-stand-has-been-noted/article24156370.ece

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