Update (2017/02/13): And if it was not apparent that much of the screaming at Americans for not wanting to obey the Iranian modesty laws was not enough to demonstrate the incredible double-standard, check out this hypocrisy from Sweden.
Women from around the world sat down at chessboards in Tehran, Iran yesterday to begin the first round of the 2017 FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship. The venue was filled with local celebrities, dignitaries, and in true Iranian fashion, some of the world’s most controversial figures including FIDE’s own Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. As usual, Kirsan did not pass on an opportunity to give us more to laugh about thanks to the quick British wit of GM Nigel Short.
And as most people know, the decision to hold the Women’s Championship in Tehran caused a great deal of controversy with protests from American GM Nazi Paikidze and GM Mariya Muzychuk because of the compulsory hijab requirement. For Nazi Paikidze, the decision not to travel to Iran was also partially because of the significant Anti-American sentiment and warnings from the US Government about American citizen travel to Iran. Enough has already been written by countless news agencies and blogs to make it necessary to rehash the debate itself. Instead, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some events
that occurred in Iran yesterday at the same time the championship was about to begin…
Headline from Friday’s edition of The Independent. (Credit: The Independent UK)
Protestors took to the streets yesterday in Iran chanting the traditional Death to America and Death to Trump as the country celebrated the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. What I found interesting is that this celebration coincided with the Women’s Chess Championship, which was touted as a representation of women’s rights advancements in the country. Yet, the Iranian Revolution itself marked a significant turning point in women’s rights for the country. With the revolution came the restriction of women to their homes without male escort and loss of many other basic rights to the discretion of the country’s theocratic leadership.
When Nazi Paikidze announced her intention to boycott the event, she faced the typical media backlash that claimed her protest would damage the plight of women’s movements in Iran. Just as the first players began moving pieces the country was showing its true colors to the rest of the world by burning American flags, hanging an effigy of President Trump, and chanting for the death of the United States. Still, the calls from the media and from major political activists were deafly silent, which underscores the true hypocrisy of the Iranian government, FIDE, and the multitudes who tried to silence Nazi and others like her. It is okay to protest selected events, groups, or governments, but those protests must be sanctioned by the media and by the special interest groups that claim a monopoly on human morality.
We all knew that the event would go on in Tehran regardless of protests by players because Iran’s regime represents the kind of government and leadership style preferred by FIDE’s dear leader. But I for one am proud of those women who refused to give in to social and political pressure to play in the tournament. If the Iranian government is truly as open and accepting as it claimed to be in response to the protests, then Nazi, Mariya, and others would have been able to voice their protest without receiving the significant backlash they faced. Yet, that is not the reality we live in.