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Iranian chess tournament triggers new hijab controversy

media US women's chess champion Nazi Paikidze Creative Commons

Iran hosting the womens’ world chess tournament in February 2017 has triggered protests as the country demands participants to play while wearing a hijab. But one day after Iran was awarded the honor, US champion Nazi Paikidze said she would boycott the contest, and many may follow.

Iran is demanding that contetants dress in full hijab.

Susan Polgar, who is the chairperson of the women’s committee of the world chess organisation FIDE said she had to block more than 1000 ‘trolls’ who criticized her for not standing up for women’s rights.

The top-players have already started to take steps to show their discontent.

Current US champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, a Russian-born Georgian American, announced that she would boycott the event.

She also started a petition calling the FIDE to tell the Iranian hosts that they must have a choice as to what to wear during the tournament. So far the petition has been signed by almost 5,000 people.

In a post on Instagram, Paikidze said “in a message to the people of Iran” that she was “not anti-Islam ...” but was protesting “the government’s laws that are restricting my rights as a woman”.

In spite of her boycott, she says she hopes “to visit Iran and see women having complete freedom and equality.”

The decision to let Iran organize the women world championships was taken on September 13 during the FIDE’s yearly general assembly, which took place this year in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Some national chess federations in countries like England and Denmark had previously that they “deplore” the decision to name Iran as the hosts and want the rules changed.

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