“I do not wish to be forced to wear a Burkha.” says Indian Chess star, withdraws from Iran event


Indian chess star, Soumya Swaminathan denied being a part of Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, because of the compulsory-headscarf rule in the country which she said violated her personal rights.

She wrote on her Facebook page, “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 said that she finds the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of her basic Human Rights including her right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. She made it clear that under the present circumstances, to protect her rights its best not to go to Iran.

She expressed her disappointment on enforcement of religious dress codes in sports.

“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

The Chess star said that to play for the country is a huge honour but she didn’t fail to mention that individual freedom cannot be compromised.

“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.”

This is not the first time an athlete pulled out of an event over the same issue. In 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from the Asian Airgun meet in Iran citing the same reason.

The Pune based chess player is presently holding the title of Women Grandmaster from India.