Indian Chess Player Soumya Swaminathan has withdrawn from Iran tournament after she expressed that she cannot wear a headscarf as it is the violation of her rights. Soumya is former world junior girls’ champion. She has refused to participate in the Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, because it is compulsory in that country for women to wear a headscarf.
She announced her withdrawal in a Facebook post where she mentioned that she feels it to be a breach of her right to freedom. She wrote,
“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.
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.
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.”
Her stand has been widely appreciated by people. She also criticised chess officials for allotting events to countries without taking players’ rights into account.