The political discourse around hijabs (headscarves typically worn by observant Muslim women) is getting pretty absurd. Earlier this year, the French government banned a specific form of hijab nicknamed the burkini (used for swimming) claiming that the article of clothing encouraged terrorism, but later reversed the decision because are you f*cking kidding with that racist garbage? Now, an American chess champion is refusing to compete in a championship in Iran because - according to the New York Times - "requiring women to wear a hijab is a human rights issue."
“I think it’s unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens,” said Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, a Russian-born Georgian-American chess player. (Yes, her name is Nazi. No, no one is talking about that. Let's move on.)
Paikidze-Barnes has also organized a petition asking for the championship's organizers to either change the location of the event or make wearing a hijab optional rather than required.
Similar chess events have been held in Iran before without incident. “There were no complaints from the players or officials, and everybody respected the laws of the country, including the dress requirements,” wrote Anastasiya Karlovich, a spokesperson for Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation.
“This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen; we haven’t been able to host any world championship in other sporting fields for women in the past,” said Mitra Hejazipour, a fellow competitor. “It’s not right to call for a boycott. These games are important for women in Iran; it’s an opportunity for us to show our strength.”
But Paikidze-Barnes is doubling down on her stance: “I am not anti-Islam or any other religion,” she wrote. “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.”
All this over a damn scarf.