U.S. Women's Chess Champ Boycotts Competition in Iran

| by Sarah Zimmerman
U.S. Woman Grandmaster Nazi Paikidze-BarnesU.S. Woman Grandmaster Nazi Paikidze-Barnes

Chess woman grandmaster Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, 22, will not participate in next year's World Champion Chess tournament in Iran as a form of protest against oppression women in the country face.

Paikidze-Barnes particularly takes issue with the Muslim country's mandate that all women wear a hijab or headscarf in public, according to BBC. She started a petition asking the world chess federation, FIDE, to change the event's location or to make it optional for women to wear the head covering.

“I will not wear a hijab and support women’s oppression," she said on an Instagram post, according to The Rebel. "Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career."

Paikidze-Barnes explained her decision further, saying in the post that, "it's unacceptable to host a WOMEN'S World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens."

The young chess player seems to be one of the lone voices in the chess community who is upset with the FIDE's decision to hold 2017's competition in Iran.

A FIDE spokesperson said Iran "was the only country which made a proposal to host the event," and added that no other women objected to playing with a headscarf, BBC reports.

Mitra Hejazipour, a 23-year-old woman grandmaster from Iran, has even pushed back against Paikidze-Barnes, claiming that her boycott does more harm to Iranian women than good.

"This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen," she told The Guardian. "We haven’t been able to host any world championship in other sporting fields for women in the past. It’s not right to call for a boycott. These games are important for women in Iran; it’s an opportunity for us to show our strength."

Other critics have said Paikidze-Barnes' boycott of the hijab is a sign of Islamophobia and shows that she doesn't understand the country's culture, according to BBC.

The 22-year-old fiercely responded to those claims saying: "I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I stand for freedom of religion and choice."

"I'm protesting FIDE's decision not because of Iran's religion or people, but for the government's laws that are restricting my rights as a woman," she added.

Sources: The Rebel, BBC, The Guardian / Photo Credit: Nazi Paikidze-Barnes/Instagram

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