An Indian chess star has decided to pull out of an international championship event in Iran in protest against having to wear an Islamic headscarf.
Former world junior girls champion Soumya Swaminathan condemned the dress code at the upcoming Asian Nations Chess Cup as a violation of her human rights.
The 29-year-old chess grandmaster made the announcement via a Facebook post on Saturday.
“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,” Swaminathan wrote. “It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran.”
Iran has required women to wear the Islamic headscarf in public places since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Women have since been allowed to only show their face, hands, and feet in public under Iranian law. They are also only allowed to wear “modest colors.”
Such a policy enforced through the Asian Nations Chess Cup has resulted in similar issues involving international chess players in the past.
Back in 2016, United States chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes
also refused to wear the hijab, resulting in her boycotting the world championship in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iranian chess Grandmaster Dorsa Derakhshani
was banned by the Iranian Chess Federation in 2017 after attending international competitions abroad without wearing the headscarf. Derakhshani has been representing the U.S. ever since.
Swaminathan’s decision to sacrifice an important tournament has been met with universal praise online.