Chess player pulls out of com­pe­ti­tion be­cause of head­scarf rule

The Guardian - - 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 is ranked 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.”

Swami­nathan 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.

Swami­nathan is the sec­ond In­dian com­peti­tor to have pulled out of a con­test in Iran be­cause of the manda­tory head­scarf rule. The pro­fes­sional pis­tol shooter Heena Sidhu with­drew from the Asian Air­gun Shoot­ing Cham­pi­onships held in Tehran two years

‘The only way for me to pro­tect my rights is not to go to Iran’ In­dian chess player

ago, say­ing that the cloth­ing rule for women 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,” she said.

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 [such] in­ter­na­tional events if it fails to con­sider ba­sic hu­man rights.”

Ab­hi­jit Ma­jumder, an In­dian jour­nal­ist, 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.”

Soumya Swami­nathan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.