The world's premier women chess players are calling for a boycott of next year's World Championships to be held in Iran, protesting against laws that make the wearing of a hijab mandatory for women in the country.
Some of the leading players of the game, including 2016 US Women's champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes have stated that women's safety is also an issue during the championships. Speaking to The Telegraph, she said, "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."
Pan-American champion in 2012, Ecuador's Carla Heredia echoed similar sentiments on the issue of wearing a headscarf. British GM Nigel Short also pitched in with his support on the matter.
However, Mitra Hejazipour, an Iranian Woman Grandmaster (WGM) who won the 2015 Asian continental women’s championship, called for the players to re-consider their stance on the subject as a boycott could reverse any interest or any progress towards the attitude of women's sport in the country.
Hejazipour said, "This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen; 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."
Meanwhile, the FIDE responded to the matter by stating that there have been no objections by players or officials. In a press statement, it said, "There were no complaints from the players or officials and everybody respected the laws of the country, including the dress requirements.
At this point in time, there have been no official complaints to FIDE, from any player who is eligible to participate in the Women’s World Championship 2017.
It is not a FIDE regulation or requirement to wear a hijab during the event."
In 1979, Iran made the wearing of a hijab in public gatherings a must and failure to do so, punishable by law.