World's Top Female Chess Players Boycotting Next Event

Some of the world's top chess players are boycotting next year's world championships in Iran after being told they must compete wearing hijabs.

Fide, chess's international governing body, has been criticised for not standing up for women's rights by choosing Iran as the competition's next host country, reported The Telegraph.

A number of female grandmasters, the highest-ranking chess players, said they would boycott the competition, but Fide's Commission for Women’s Chess urged them to respect "cultural differences" and accept the requirement for women to wear hijabs in the country.

Hijabs have been compulsory for women in Iran since 1979 and those who don't comply face punishment, from fines to imprisonment.

Nazi Paikidze, the U.S. women's champion, voiced her concerns about the requirement and women's rights more generally in Iran, adding that she would not participate in the competition "if the situation remains unchanged".

"It is absolutely unacceptable to host one of the most important women's tournaments in a venue where, to this day, women are forced to cover up with a hijab," Paikidze told The Telegraph.

"I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women's rights are being severely restricted in general.

"It does not feel safe for women from around the world to play here,” she added. "I am honoured and proud to have qualified to represent the United States in the Women’s World Championship. But, if the situation remains unchanged, I will most certainly not participate in this event."

Carla Heredia, the former Pan American champion from Ecuador, also spoke out against Fide's decision, The Telegraph reported. "No institution, no government, nor a Women's World Chess Championship should force women to wear or to take out a hijab," she said.

"This violates all what sports means. Sport should be free of discrimination by sex, religion and sexual orientation."

Heredia also said she was concerned "that women can't share a room with a male if she is not married to him". She added: "So the question remains what would happen if women chess players want to share the room with a male coach or if women chess players want to prepare for the game visiting the coach's room.”

Female chess players were similarly angry earlier this year when they were forced to wear hijabs during a smaller Fide event in Iran, The Telegraph reported.

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