American chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes has made a “morally courageous” move in announcing she will skip next year’s Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran, according to a piece in the Washington Post.
The Op-Ed, co-authored by My Stealthy Freedom’s Masih Alinejad and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement Asra Nomani, aims to illuminate the infringement to women and girls’ fundamental human rights posed by Iran’s “modesty” law, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career,” Paikidze-Barnes said, of the requirement contestants wear the headscarf, after FIDE (the international chess federation) made its announcement about the competition’s 2017 host nation.
A message to the people of Iran: I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I stand for freedom of religion and choice. ✌️ I'm protesting FIDE's decision not because of Iran's religion or people, but for the government's laws that are restricting my rights as a woman. My personal experiences with Iranian people have been nothing but wonderful ❣️ One day I hope to visit Iran and see women having complete freedom and equality. 🙏
Alinejad and Nomani argue that the U.S. champ should not have to boycott the tournament — instead Iran should make the headscarf optional and lift its ban on women who choose not to cover their hair. They also reject a conciliatory gesture by the American chair of FIDE’s Commission for Women’s Chess, Susan Polgar, who said she has “respect” for “cultural difference,” and noted the “beautiful choices” of scarves Iranian competition organizers have previously made available to women players.
“Thank you, but no, thank you,” wrote Alinejad and Nomani, who observe that American liberals have been quick to call out the “slut shaming” of Venezuelan beauty queen Alicia Machado by Donald Trump, while remaining silent on hijab, leaving reform-minded Muslims in the lurch. The protest by 22-year-old Paikidze-Barnes is described to be “a welcome departure” from a pervasive “hijab fetish, which romanticizes and normalizes the hijab,” a garment they describe as “a symbol of sexism, misogyny and purity culture.”