Iranian chess referee frightened to return home after headscarf controversary

An Iranian chess referee Shohreh Bayat is scared to return home after an online controversary over headscarf. She is the chief referee at the Women’s World Chess Championship held in Russia and China.

Shohreh’s picture during the event was floating on the internet in Iran. She is scared that if she returned Iran they might arrest her.

In the picture, she is not wearing a headscarf which is mandatory in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Many women in Iran stage protest against this headscarf-wearing rule.

Bayat said: “They are very sensitive about the hijab when we are representing Iran in international events and even sometimes they send a person with the team to control our hijab.”

She said that she was wearing a hijab during the tournament but certain camera angles had made it look like she was not.

Bayat said: “If I come back to Iran, I think there are a few possibilities. It is highly possible that they arrest me or it is possible that they invalidate my passport. I think they want to make an example of me.”

The picture was captured at the first stage of the chess championship in Shanghai, China. But Bayat has since traveled to Vladivostok, Russia, for the second leg between Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina.

When she found her picture online she was shocked. Everyone criticized her for not wearing the hijab. Bayat said she is not wearing it anymore. Shohreh doesn’t believe in hijab than what is the point in wearing it.

Bayat added: “People must be free to choose to wear what they want, and I was only wearing the hijab because I live in Iran and I had to wear it. I had no other choice.”

She asked for help from the chess federation and they asked her to write an apology. She agreed on the condition after they assured her that the federation protected her but they refused.

Bayat said that all of her family members are in Iran. She said that she didn’t know what to say in this situation as it is a very difficult time for her.

FIDE, international federation for chess announced that they will support Bayat in whatever decision she made.

“In FIDE we respect all cultures, but above everything, we respect the individual’s freedom of choice,” FIDE said in a statement.