Human Rights

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U.S. Chess Federation Backs Female Champ’s Boycott of Iran Over Mandatory Dress Code

The U.S. Chess Federation took a stand in support of U.S. women’s champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, saying Thursday that it would support her boycott of next year’s world women’s championship in Iran due to the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code for women.

Paikidze-Barnes, 22, said she would rather boycott the contest than be forced to wear a hijab, “even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

“We absolutely support Nazi Paikidze,” said U.S. Chess Federation president Gary Walters. “Women should not be oppressed for cultural, religious or ethnic reasons…She has taken a principled position of which we can be proud.”

Other chess luminaries have also come out in support of Paikidze-Barnes, including former world champion Garry Kasparov and grandmasters Nigel Short, Carla Heredia, and Jen Shahade. The English and Danish chess federations have also issued statements opposing the decision to hold the tournament in Iran.

All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is strictly enforced. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, only to be arrested afterwards.

“Some consider a hijab part of culture,” Paikidze-Barnes said in announcing her decision. “But, I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”

[Photo: Bob Whitehead / Flickr ]