Soumya Swaminathan, woman grandmaster and girl’s junior champion declined to be a part of Indian National Chess team for the upcoming Asian Team Chess Championship which is set to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, 2018. According to Iran’s law, it is compulsory for every women to wear a Hijab in public and Iranian Government wants all the players to cover their head with a headscarf. Soumya said that following this rule a violation of her human rights.
Woman Grandmaster explained in a Facebook post that she did not want to play by someone’s else rules. She said that players represent their respective nations by wearing their national attire and modifying them due to some law is bad. Swaminathan felt disappointed with working of the organisation and said that it is not hosting the tournaments according to the welfare of players.
“I am very sorry to state that I have asked to be excused from the Indian Women’s team for the forthcoming Asian Nations Cup ( Asian Team ) Chess Championship 2018, to be held at Iran from 26 July – 4 Aug 2018, as 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,” her Facebook post read.
Swaminathan said that a tournament like this isn’t the place to enforce religious dress codes. “I am very disappointed to see that player’s rights and welfare are given such less importance while allotting and/or organising official championships. 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,” the post added.
She also apologised for not being able to represent India and said that she is really upset about it. She added that everytime players have to compromise in some or the other way and they do but with somethings, they cannot compromise.
“It is a huge honour for me to represent India everytime I am selected in the National Team and I deeply regret that I will be unable to participate in such an important championship. While we sportspersons are willing to make several adjustments for the sake of our sport, always giving it top priority in our life, some things simply cannot be compromised,” the post added.
Even Heena Sidhu, top-level shooter, had pulled herself out from a tournament couple of years ago due to the same reason.