Pune: Woman grandmaster and former world junior girls’ champion Soumya Swaminathan has pulled out of the Asian Team Chess Championship, saying the Islamic country’s “compulsory headscarf” rule violates her personal rights.
“I find the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights … the only way for me to protect my rights is to not go to Iran,” the 29-year-old, posted on her Facebook account.
Swaminathan, who is India No. 5 and world No. 97 among women, was expected to attend the July 26-August 4 championship to held in Hamadan, Iran.
Earlier, in 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from the Asian Airgun meet in Iran citing the same reason.
Swaminathan said that when she first gave the nod to be a part of the Indian team, the host country was to be Bangladesh and the dates were different. “But once the new dates and new venue came up, I excused myself,” she added.
Asked if the All India Chess Federation (AICF) should have protested against the decision to allot the tournament to Iran, Swaminathan, a resident of Pune, said: “I can’t expect everyone to be of the same opinion as me. It’s subjective issue.”
However, in her Facebook message, Swaminathan blasted the officialdom. “I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given little importance while allotting and/or organizing official championships,” she wrote.
Among other chess players, Ukraine’s Muzhychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya, have been vocal about human rights and gender equality and have refused to play premier tournaments in Saudi Arabia
The champion team from the Iran event will qualify for the World Team Chess Championship. Iran is also scheduled to host the open Asian Team championship concurrently.
Bharat Singh Chauhan, All India Chess Federation honorary secretary, did not respond to requests for comment.
The details of remaining members in the five-member women’s team are sketchy.
American chess player Nazi Paikidze also refused to play the knockout World Championship in Tehran, Iran, last year over the same issue.
(Source: The Times of India)