Top women chess players are threatening to boycott the 2017 Women's World Chess Championship in Iran if they are required to wear hijabs.
The World Chess Federation, known by the acronym FIDE, has informed players that they must accept the laws of the host country, The Telegraph reported. Headscarves have been mandatory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Daily Mail notes.
The Center for Global Initiatives at the University of North Carolina offers the following summary of the controversial Islamic headscarves:
Hijab is referred to by various names, some of the most common of which are a veil or a headscarf. Most Muslims who wear the covering call it a hijab, an Arabic word meaning ‘cover.’ However, there are various forms of hijab that are referred to by different names. While hijab is commonly associated with women, Muslim men also sometimes wear a head covering as a means of showing modesty. Additionally, Christian and Jewish women in some traditions wear a headscarf as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety.
Regarding the policy announced by FIDE, U.S. women's chess champion Nazi Paikidze chimed in, according to the Daily Mail:
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. 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… If the situation remains unchanged, I will most certainly not participate in this event.
Carla Heredia, former Pan American chess champion from Ecuador, concurs: “No institution, no government, nor a Women's World Chess Championship should force women to wear or to take out a hijab. This violates all what sports means. Sport should be free of discrimination by sex, religion and sexual orientation.”
However, American Grandmaster Susan Polgar has no problem with wearing a hijab, and thinks players should respect cultural differences: "When I visited different places with different cultures, I like to show my respect by dressing up in their traditional style of clothing,” she said. “No one asked me to do it. I just do it out of respect. I personally would have no issues with wearing a head scarf (hijab) as long as it is the same to all players. I cannot speak on behalf of others but from my personal conversations with various players in the past year, they had no real issues with it.”
Polgar, it should be noted, is chairman of FIDE’s Commission for Women's Chess.