Soumya Swaminathan, Grandmaster and former world junior girls chess champion has excused herself out of the Asian Team Chess Championship which is to be held from July 26 to August 4 in Hamadan, Iran over the country’s compulsory headscarf rule. Announcing the same through a Facebook post, Swaminathan said that, “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.”
She also expressed her disappointment with how player’s rights and welfare are compromised while organising official championships. The same reason has left her with no choice but to pull out of the event and expressed regret over not being able to participate in the championship.
“While we sportspersons are willing to make several adjustments for the sake of our sport, always giving it the top priority in our life, some things simply cannot be compromised”, Swaminathan said.
I am very sorry to state that I have asked to be excused from the Indian Women's team for the forthcoming Asian Nations…
Compulsory hijab/headscarf rule
In 2016, Indian shooter Heena Sidhu pulled out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship held in Iran due to compulsory hijab rule for women sportspersons. She had then said that making this rule compulsory went against the spirit of the sport.
Many other international players have also raised objections over the rule of compulsory hijab/headscarf in the past. A subtle protest of sorts took place when many top women chess players decided to boycott the 2017 Women’s World Championship of chess held in Tehran.
Former world champion Marya Muzychuk and US Women’s Champ Nazi Paikidze also boycotted the event. Paikidze even put across a petition asking the World Chess Federation to change the tournament’s location.
The Logical Indian take
Forcing a strict dress code on somebody goes against their sense of personal freedom and rights and is regressive. Especially in an International level sporting event, where players from different cultures participate, the highest priority must be reserved for the sports itself. Mixing politics/culture/religion should be avoided.
The Logical Indian commends Soumya Swaminathan for taking a stand against this and we hope that the concerned authorities take note of this.