Indian Chess Star Soumya Swaminathan Refuses To Wear Headscarf, Withdraws From Iran Event

Updated: 13 June 2018 13:05 IST

In 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from the Asian Airgun meet in Iran citing the same reason.

Indian Chess Star Soumya Swaminathan Refuses To Wear Headscarf, Withdraws From Iran Event
This is not the first time an athlete pulled out of an event over the same issue. © Facebook

Woman Grandmaster and former world junior girls' champion Soumya Swaminathan has refused to participate in the Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, because of the compulsory-headscarf rule in the country which she said violated her personal rights. She took to her Facebook page to say, "I find the Iranian law of compulsory Headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic Human Rights including my right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran." She further said that the religious dress codes should not be imposed on players.

"I understand the organisers expecting us to wear our National Team Dress or Formals or Sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely there is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in Sports," she added.

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran has required women to wear a headscarf in public places. Women can only show their face, hands and feet in public and are supposed to wear only modest colours.

Here is what Soumya Swaminathan wrote on her Facebook page about her decision.

"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 ( Asian Team ) Chess Championship 2018, to be held at Iran from 26 July - 4 Aug 2018, as I do not wish to be forced to wear a Headscarf or Burkha. I find the Iranian law of compulsory Headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic Human Rights including my right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran.

I am very disappointed to see that player's rights and welfare are given such less importance while allotting and/or organising official championships. I understand the organisers expecting us to wear our National Team Dress or Formals or Sporting attire for our games during official championships, but surely there is no place for an enforceable religious dress code in Sports.

It is a huge honour for me to represent India everytime 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, always giving it top priority in our life, some things simply cannot be compromised."

Ranked 97 among active women players in the world and fourth in India, Swaminathan also criticised chess officials for allotting events to countries without taking players' rights into account.

This is not the first time an athlete pulled out of an event over the same issue. In 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from the Asian Air Gun meet in Iran citing the same reason.

(With ANI Inputs)

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Topics : Other Sports
Highlights
  • Soumya Swaminathan has pulled out of the Asian Team Chess Championship
  • Muzhychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya, have been vocal about human rights
  • Iran is also scheduled to host open Asian Team championship concurrently
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