Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, a Georgian-American who holds the titles of international master and Woman Grandmaster in chess, is among leading female players who have banded against Iran's demand that participants in next year's championship to wear hijab (head scarves) during the competition.
Paikidze-Barnes 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.”
"I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women's rights are being severely restricted in general. It does not feel safe for women from around the world to play here," she added.
Former Pan American champion Carla Heredia from Ecuador agrees.
"No institution, no government, nor a Women's World Chess Championship should force women to wear or to take out a hijab," Heredia said. "This violates all what sports means. Sport should be free of discrimination by sex, religion and sexual orientation."
Nigel Short, a British chess grandmaster, wants the venue to be changed, saying, “The hijab is a symbol of Islamic repression.”
There are a lot of people who are equally incensed over the demand and stand with Paikidze-Barnes on her decision.
But not everyone is in favor.
2015 Asian continental women’s winner Mitra Hejazipour feels that a boycott is not a good idea at all.
“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,” she says. “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.”
Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman who spent five months in jail in Iran for campaigning to allow women to watch men’s volleyball games in stadiums, also echoes the same sentiments, “The world must hear the pro-reform voices of people inside Iran and not ignore these pleas by isolating the country.”
Calls to boycott the country would only serve to hurt women in Iran, she added. “I am firmly against the international community using the compulsory hijab as a means to put pressure and isolate Iran.
“Day by day, Iranian women are becoming more empowered and are pushing aside traditional, legal and political discrimination … Those who are worried for the situation of human rights in Iran, if they are really serious, have to acknowledge these efforts and see these capacities.”
The opposition, however, is overwhelmed by the support Nazí Paikidze-Barnes has gotten:
This is a post for those who don't understand why I am boycotting FIDE's decision. 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. For those saying that I don't know anything about Iran: I have received the most support and gratitude from the people of Iran, who are facing this situation every day. Thank you MyStealthyFreedom for sharing my interview.
Going out in public without covering your hair has been an offense punishable by law for women in Iran since 1979. The law is enforced pretty heavily and many women are arrested or fined by police if they fail to cover up with the attire considered “appropriate.”