In­dian chess cham­pion quits com­pe­ti­tion in Iran over head­scarf rule

The Guardian Australia - - News / World News - Michael Safi and agen­cies

An In­dian chess cham­pion has with­drawn from an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Iran, say­ing a rule re­quir­ing her to wear a head­scarf would vi­o­late her hu­man rights.

Soumya Swami­nathan ranks fifth in In­dia and was pre­par­ing to com­pete in the Asian chess cham­pi­onship in Bangladesh. How­ever, when the com­pe­ti­tion was moved to Iran, the 29-year-old with­drew from the com­pe­ti­tion.

“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 on Facebook last week.

“Un­der the present cir­cum­stances, the only way for me to pro­tect my rights is not to go to Iran.”

She said com­peti­tors were will­ing to ad­just for the sake of their sport but “some things sim­ply can­not be com­pro­mised”.

“There is no place for an en­force­able re­li­gious dress code in sports,” she added.

She is the sec­ond In­dian ath­lete to have pulled out of a con­test in Iran be­cause of the manda­tory head­scarf rule. The pro­fes­sional shooter Heena Sidhu with­drew from the Asian Air­gun Shoot­ing Cham­pi­onships held in Tehran two years ago, say­ing the rule was dis­crim­i­na­tory.

Last year, the Ira­nian chess player Dorsa Der­akhshani moved to the United States and joined the US team af­ter she was barred from her home­land’s team for re­fus­ing to wear a head­scarf dur­ing a match in Gi­bral­tar.

“It feels good and ... peace­ful to play for a fed­er­a­tion where I am wel­comed and sup­ported,” Der­akhshani told the US Chess Fed­er­a­tion.

Swami­nathan’s de­ci­sion was praised by other ath­letes, in­clud­ing the In­dian crick­eter Mo­ham­mad Kaif.

“Hats off to Soumya Swami­nathan for pulling out of this event in Iran,” he wrote. “There should be no scope for re­li­gious dress codes to be im­posed on play­ers. A host na­tion should not be granted per­mis­sion to host [s]uch in­ter­na­tional events if it fails to con­sider ba­sic hu­man rights.”

In­dian jour­nal­ist Ab­hi­jit Ma­jumder tweeted: “If you are a great pro­fes­sional and a strong woman/ man, you don’t need to play vic­tim or do drama. You do your job, and calmly make a state­ment. Take a bow, Soumya.”

Pho­to­graph: Dibyang­shu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Im­ages

One of In­dia’s top chess play­ers has pulled out of an up­com­ing cham­pi­onship in Iran in protest at hav­ing to wear an Is­lamic head­scarf.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.