Wednesday, October 12, 2016

World Chess Federation Requires Hijab At Iran Tournament -- Fallaci Tossing Chador At Khomeini's Feet Is Just a Memory

The big news in Chess last month was the decision by FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs), which resulted in headlines that Female Chess Players Forced to Wear Hijab as Governing Body Awards World Championship to Iran:
The world's top female chess players have reacted with horror after being told they must compete at next year's world championship wearing a hijab.

Within hours of Iran being revealed as its host country, the prestigious event was plunged into crisis as it emerged players taking part face arrest if they don't cover up.

A hijab is a veil covering the head and chest.

Iranian woman wearing a hijab.
Source: Wikipeda

In response, the US women's champion, Nazi Paikidze (pronounced “nah-ZEE.”), responded by saying she will boycott the tournament, both because of what she sees as sexual discrimination as well as because of the travel warning issued by the US State Department, advising against travelling to Iran because US citizens risk being unjustly imprisoned or kidnapped because of their nationality.

Nazi Paikidze, the US women's champion
Credit: Zuma Press, Inc. / Alamy. Source: The Telegraph

Putting aside the Iranian proclivity for taking hostages, the issue of FIDE putting women in a position where they have no choice about wearing the hijab in a fundamentalist Islamic state should remind us of an outspoken woman who took the opposite approach.

Oriana Fallaci, an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer, was famous for her interviews with world leaders during the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. She was also well known for being outspoken. Among those she interviewed was Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1979.

Oriana Fallaci. Source: Wikipedia

For the internview, Fallaci was told she would have to  wear a chador, an open cloak worn by many women in Iran, during the interview,

Which she did.

Oriana Fallaci, wearing the chador.
Source: Wikipedia

For a while.

During her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, Fallaci called him a "tyrant," removed the chador, and threw it to the ground:
OF: I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the "chador", for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women.... I am not only referring to the dress but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their "chador". By the way, how can you swim wearing a "chador"?

AK: None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don't like the Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.

OF: This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I'm going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There!
The argument whether FIDE requiring women to wear a hijab is an issue of discrimination or a question of respect for a different culture continues -- though Paikidze's protest is gaining support. In fact, as of this past Monday, the petition Paikidze is circulating has exceeded its goal of 15,000 signatures.

The petition notes that in its handbook, The World Chess Federation explicitly states that it:
rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender.
No matter how you view the issue, the difference in attitude between Fallaci and FIDE is striking, especially given Iran's poor human rights record.

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