Hijab while eating, playing... How chess GM Soumya Swaminathan’s experience in 2011 caused her to withdraw from Iran tournament
Former World Junior Champion Soumya Swaminathan explains her ordeal of being compelled to wear a headscarf in Iran in 2011.pune Updated: Jun 14, 2018 15:41 IST
Women Grandmaster and former World Junior Champion Soumya Swaminathan’s decision to withdraw her name from the upcoming Asian Nations Cup (Asian Team) Chess Championship as a protest against the Iranian law necessitating women to wear a headscarf at all times is being praised by many as a bold move. But for her, it is a fight against something that is inhuman.
Soumya has played in Iran on two occasions earlier, but an incident in 2011 is what changed her perspective of women’s rights.
“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,” she said.
She backed her decision by saying that she found the Iranian law necessitating women to wear a headscarf at all times to be in direct violation of her basic human rights, including her right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
She also rebuked the organisers saying that she is disappointed to see that players’ rights and welfare are given such low importance while organising big official championships.
“I understand that organisers expect us to wear our national team dress or formals or a sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely, there is no place for a forced religious dress code in sports,” she added.
“It is a huge honour for me to represent India every time 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, some things simply cannot be compromised,” she said.
Similarly, Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from Iran event giving similar reasons in 2016.
The Asian Nations Cup (Asian Team) Chess Championship 2018 will be held in Iran from July 26 to August 4.
“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), as I do not wish to be forced to wear a headscarf or burkha. It violates my basic human rights. It seems that under the current circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is to not go to Iran,” Soumya had posted on social media.