American Chess Player Boycotts Championship in Iran Over Hijab Rule
In a series of posts on social media, Ms. Paikidze-Barnes, a Russian-born Georgian-American, has said that requiring women to wear a hijab is a human rights issue.
“I think it’s unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.
Ms. Paikidze-Barnes, 22, also organized a petition calling for the competition’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation, to either move the competition from Iran or persuade Iranian officials to make wearing a hijab an option instead of a requirement.
According to a statement from the federation’s spokeswoman, Anastasiya Karlovich, posted to Chess Daily News, the organization has defended its decision to host the championship in Iran. For one, the statement said, no other country had asked. For another, Iran held a global event in February that went off well.
“There were no complaints from the players or officials, and everybody respected the laws of the country, including the dress requirements,” Ms. Karlovich wrote.
Both Ms. Paikidze-Barnes and FIDE did not immediately return an email request for further comment on Friday.
At least one other player has vocally criticized Ms. Paikidze-Barnes’s decision to boycott. Ms. Paikidze-Barnes’s comments have also alienated Iranian women, including Mitra Hejazipour, an Iranian chess player and fellow grandmaster.
“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,” Ms. Hejazipour, 23, told The Guardian. “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.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Paikidze-Barnes appeared to respond to the criticism on her Instagram page.
“I am not anti-Islam or any other religion,” she wrote. “I stand for freedom of religion and choice. I’m protesting FIDE’s decision not because of Iran’s religion or people, but for the government’s laws that are restricting my rights as a woman.”