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Indian Chess Champion Soumya pulls out of Iran tournament over hijab rule

Wednesday June 13, 2018 6:54 PM, News Network

Soumya Swaminathan

Mumbai: Soumya Swaminathan, former Junior Girls’ chess Champion, pulled out of the Asian Team Chess Championshipin to be held in Hamadan, Iran due to the compulsory rule of wearing a headscarf or Hijab in the country.

The Asian Team Chess Championshipin is scheduled to be held in Hamadan from July 26 to August 4, 2018 But, Soumya pulled out saying the compulsory Hijab rule was a “violation” of her human rights.

“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", she wrote in a Facebook post.

"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,” she added.

“It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran,” the India No. 5 wrote in her post.

Soumya, currently placed in the 97th position in the World Rankings, said that the rights of players are not taken care before organising tournaments.

“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,” she wrote.

“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,” she wrote.

Swaminathan’s decision comes a few years after top-level Indian shooter Heena Sidhu pulled out of a tournament in Iran for the same reason.

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