Don’t Force Me To Wear A Burkha: Indian Chess Star Soumya Swaminathan Withdraws From Event In Iran

A player takes a stand!

Indian chess Grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan has withdrawn from the Asian Team Chess Championship, set to be held in Iran from 26 July to 4 August, over the compulsory-headscarf rule in the country. Taking to Facebook on June 9, Soumya expressed her disappointment at the compulsory rule and how it’s a violation of her rights as a human.

“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,” she wrote.

She further added that while she understands the organisers expect players to comply, she still believes forcing religious conducts in sports is uncalled for.

“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.”

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time a sportswoman has pulled out of an event due to this rule. Another chess player, American player Nazi Paikidze, withdrew from the World Championship in Tehran last year over the same reason. In 2016, Indian shooter Heena Sidhu did not participate in the Asian Airgun meet in Iran also for the same reason.

Soumya Swaminathan is a professional chess player and was thrice the National Junior girls champion, 2007 which led to her earning her WIM title that year, tied for 1st at the National Women’s Championship and performed a super jump from 2140 ELO in the January rating list to 2315 ELO in just 1 year period. This was followed by a WGM title in 2008 . Apart from making it big in the global chess arena, she is also double graduate with a law degree hailing from Pune.

Read her full post here:

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