World Bulletin / News Desk
Female Iranian chess players have hit back at calls by opponents of the country's Islamic dress code for a boycott of February's world championships in Tehran, saying the campaign hurts Iranian women.
Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran has required women to wear the Islamic headscarf in public places and US chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes has said she will boycott the Tehran championships because she refuses to wear the hijab.
"It's the first time we are hosting a world championship, not only in chess but (in any) sport, and I think it's very important for Iranian women to have this chance to hold such major events."
Her comments were echoed by teammate Mitra Hejazipour, a 23-year-old grandmaster.
"The hijab is not oppression. We are used to it and it's one of Iran's laws and we accept it," she said.
The US champion has launched a petition calling for the tournament to be moved.
"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," the 22-year-old Georgian-American wrote on Instagram.
Her petition has been backed by some leading figures in chess, including Nigel Short, the British coach who once trained Iran's national team.
Under Iranian law, women can only show their face, hands and feet in public and are supposed to wear only modest colours.
Over the years, women have pushed back the boundaries of the law, with many, particularly in the capital, wearing loose, brightly coloured headscarves far back on their heads.
But they still risk fines and even lashings from "morality police" if they go too far.
The head of Iran's chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said the calls for a boycott were unreasonable.
"Everywhere in the world, there are rules on how to cover your body. There is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public," he told AFP.
The head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Geoffrey Borg, expressed surprise at the boycott campaign, saying federation members had not expressed "the slightest objection" when Iran was selected as host.
"Chess players should respect the laws of countries," Borg told a Tehran press conference last week.
"The only objections have been on personal pages, for which FIDE is not responsible," Iranian media quoted him as saying.Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Ekim 2016, 12:32