Indian grandmaster pulls out of Iran chess tournament over compulsory hijab rule

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Chess star Soumya Swaminathan, in a Facebook post, said that the compulsory headscarf rules is a violation of her human rights.

Iran, 13 Jun 2018: Former Junior Girls’ chess Champion Soumya Swaminathan pulled out of the upcoming Asian Team Chess Championship, which is set to be held from July 26 to August 4, in the city of Hamadan in Iran, due to the compulsory rule of wearing a headscarf in the country.


In a Facebook post, the 29-year old said the rule was a “violation” of her human rights.


“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,” she wrote in the post.


Swaminathan said that she has no choice but to not travel to Iran under the current circumstances.


“It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran,” the India No. 5 wrote in her post.


Swaminathan, who is currently placed in the 97th position in the World Rankings, said that the rights of players are not taken care before organising tournaments.


“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,” she wrote.


The Woman Grandmaster added that she feels upset that she could not represent her country in such an important tournament.


“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,” she wrote.


Swaminathan’s decision comes a couple of years after top-level shooter Heena Sidhu pulled out of a tournament in Iran for the same reason.


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