It is very unheard of for a player to pull out of a championship unless it’s due to a major controversy or banning.
But Indian chess player Souya Swaminathan has created much chatter for the dignity of a sportsperson by pulling out of the Asian Chess Championship that is to take place next month in Iran from July 24th to August 4th 2018.
The reason for her withdrawal is the compulsory headscarf rule for all women there which the 29-year-old Woman Grandmaster believes is a violation of her personal rights.
Swaminathan is ranked No. 5 in India and had earlier player in Iran in 2011 which largely impacted this decision of hers now.
What Has Swaminathan Said?
Soumya Swaminathan, on 9th June posted this on her Facebook, making it go viral:
“I am very sorry to state that I have asked to be excused from the Indian Women’s team for the forthcoming Asian Nations Cup ( Asian Team ) Chess Championship 2018, to be held at Iran from 26 July – 4 Aug 2018, as I do not wish to be forced to wear a Headscarf or Burkha. 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. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran.
I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given such less importance while allotting and/or organising official championships. I understand the organisers expecting us to wear our National Team Dress or Formals or Sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely there is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in Sports.
It is a huge honour for me to represent India everytime I am selected in the National Team and I deeply regret that I will be unable to participate in such an important championship. While we sportspersons are willing to make several adjustments for the sake of our sport, always giving it top priority in our life, some things simply cannot be compromised.”
Till now the post has had over 5k shares and almost 3k comments that have mostly appreciated her brave step to not bend to the religious demands of a nation in order to protect her basic rights.
The strong wording of the post resonated with people who have backed her decision and shed light on the regressive laws of certain country that expect outsiders to also obey to such clearly religious dictats.
According to sources, Swaminathan’s 2011 visit to Iran for a previous championship affected her a lot as she said that,
“Earlier, when I played in Iran, I was a child and didn’t understand or think about the rules much. But in 2011, when I visited Iran to participate in the Asian Individual Championship, I, along with every other women player, was forced to wear a hijab. It was compulsory to wear it even while eating and playing. I don’t want do this again under any circumstance. I will stand firm for my rights.”
What Is The Law In Iran?
Ever since the Iranian Revolution happened in 1979, it has been mandatory for women to wear the Islamic headscarf or hijab when they are in public spaces.
As per the Iranian Law, a woman is allowed to only show hands, face and feet in public and must wear modest colours.
Iranian women have been fighting against this rule for some time now although they risk getting a fine or being targeted by the moral police for stepping out of their bounds.
Apparently, this is not the first time a female player has quit a sporting event there due to this rule.
In 2016, Heena Sidhu, an Indian shooter had withdrawn from another championship called Asian Airgun in Iran owing to this very rule of having to wear a headscarf.
Nazi Paikidze, an American chess player created news when in 2016 she refused to participate in the Women’s World Championship in Iran due to the compulsory headscarf rule.
She expressed her thoughts in an Instagram post of how it was “unacceptable” to be hosting a tournament at a place “where women do not have basic fundamental rights”.
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