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Asked to Wear Headscarf, Indian Player Pulls out of Championship Hosted by Iran

Soumya Swaminathan, woman grandmaster and former world junior girls' chess champion feels "the compulsion to follow a particular religious code is in direct violation of basic human rights."

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Indian chess player Soumya Swaminathan on Wednesday announced that she would not be participating in the Asian Nations Cup Chess Championships 2018. The championship is being held in Iran from July 26 to August 4 and the country's strict religious laws state that women have to wear a headscarf or a burkha even while playing a sport like chess — a precondition Soumya describes as "violation of basic human rights."

"I'm 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 in 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 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," Soumya wrote in a Facebook post announcing her decision.

A senior Indian sports commentator says that requesting a player to follow a dress code is one thing and enforcing a dress code is another.

"Willingness, request and enforcing are three different things. You cannot enforce a dress code on an athlete while it's fine if the sportsperson is agreeing to wear it willingly. In the case of Soumya Swaminathan, the government should have dealt it with more interest and the Iranian sports authorities must have been conveyed the protest through the diplomatic channels. It has to do with the morale of the player and the government of India has failed to protect it," sports commentator Harpal Singh Bedi told Sputnik. 

Soumya received a roaring applause on Twitter.

Chess grandmaster Saumya Swaminathan challenging the might of Islamic fundamentalist rogue regime of Iran.I salute her courage not to wear headscarf dictated by Iranian Govt that forced her shun the tournament held in Tehran.

A big applause to #SaumyaSwaminathan for standing up against an oppressive practice 👏

1) Now, Indian chess star Soumya Swaminathan says no to Hjab, pulls out of event in Iran

Soumya is the second Indian player to have pulled out of tournaments held in Iran due to the country's strict dress code. Shooter Heena Sidhu pulled out of the 9th Asian Airgun Shooting Championship hosted by Tehran in December 2016 under similar circumstances.

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