Top women chess players are considering a boycott in the face of a decision by the World Chess Federation (or “Fide”) to hold the world championship in Iran where female grandmasters will be required to play in hijabs to avoid arrest by the Islamic morality police. It is another example of an international organization disregarding the interests of competitors in cutting deals with countries like Iran. Not only is Iran an authoritarian theocracy, but the country denies women, journalists, political dissidents and others basic rights. One would think that a condition of being considered as host would be a guarantee that competitors will be afforded their human rights.
Fide has disregarded the past objections and simply told women to accept Iranian laws and respect “cultural differences,” even when those laws deny basic human rights for women.
US women’s champion Nazí Paikidze rightfully objected and indicated that she may not participate rather than wear a mandatory cover that she considers offensive to women. (Ironically, Paikidze herself has been the subject to complaints over her first name. She was raised in Russia and Georgia). Paikidze notes that there is no choice being given women: “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 has indicated that she will not attend absent some change.
Once again, this decision by Fide is so moronic that one would expect a call for the resignation of all of the top officials. Instead, the officials have remained largely silent and safely insulated from accountability.