Chess champ quits over headscarf rule

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Soumya Swaminathan from india. flickr/Andreas Kontokanis

LONDON (Reuters) – An Indian woman chess champion has withdrawn from an international competition in Iran, saying a rule requiring her to wear a headscarf would violate her human rights.

Soumya Swaminathan ranks fifth in India and was preparing to compete in The Asian Chess Championship in Bangladesh. However, when the competition was moved to Iran, the 29-year-old withdrew and took to Facebook to spell out why.

“Under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran,” she wrote on Facebook earlier this month, saying “there is no place for an enforceable religious dress” in sports.

Swaminathan’s decision was praised by activists online.

“If you are a great professional and a strong woman/man, you don’t need to play victim or do drama. You do your job, and calmly make a statement. Take a bow, Soumya,” Indian journalist Abhijit Majumder wrote on Twitter.

Last year, Iranian chess player Dorsa Derakhshani moved to the United States and joined the US team after she was barred from her homeland’s team for refusing to wear a headscarf during a match in Gibraltar.

“It feels good and … peaceful to play for a federation where I am welcomed and supported,” the US Chess Federation quoted Derakhshani as saying.

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