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US Chess Champion Boycotts World Championship in Iran

The reigning female US chess champion Nazi Paikidze has publicly spoken about her decision to boycott the World Championship in Tehran, Iran. The event, which is due to happen in February is set to be the biggest female sporting event to occur in the country, but due to the country’s Islamic beliefs, female players are required to wear hijab.

“I Will NOT Wear a Hijab”

This is something which Paikidze feels she cannot accept. Born in Russia, and brought up in Georgia, she is not used to an environment where women need to cover their head. Speaking with My Stealthy Freedom on her decision to boycott the event as a stand for female freedom she states “I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

She seems to be speaking on behalf of an often underrepresented group of women in Iran, although protests are becoming more commonplace in the fight for a modern Muslim woman’s identity. Activists there have launched online campaigns to try and bring about change, whereas braver ladies have attempted to push the boundaries of what is currently considered decent by pushing their headscarves back as far as gravity would allow.

Not the Only Fight

But while many in the Western world would likely agree with Pikidze’s point of view, in other Muslim countries such as Turkey women have battled against the banning of scarves in public. Other Western women have also fought for the right to wear their headscarves in athletic competitions.

Paikidze has also launched a campaign on Change.org to get the World Chess Federation to take the women’s championship hosting from Iran and offer it to a less conservative country. So far it has been signed by more than 3,000 people. CNN has pointed out that Iran was the only country to offer a proposal for the event, making any likelihood of relocation difficult.

Her comments on Change.org, tweets and Instagram posts have come under fire from Susan Polgar, the chair of the women’s committee of the World Chess Federation and also Mitra Hejazipour, a Woman Grandmaster, who feels that a boycott would be a huge setback for female sport in Iran. As a woman who once said she will “do everything she can to help more girls get into chess” could Paikidze unwittingly be depriving those girls of the chance to watch an expert female sportsperson at work?

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