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The New Arab

Iranian authorities target chess official over daughter's refusal to wear the hijab

Shohreh Bayat, centre, has since fled to the UK [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2020

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Shohreh Bayat faced a backlash in Iran for photos in which she appeared not to be wearing the hijab while judging the FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship in Shanghai.

The father of an Iranian chess referee who was accused of "violating" the Islamic Republic's dress code by not wearing a headscarf has said that the country's Ministry of Sports has pressured him to resign from his post because of his daughter's actions, Radio Farda reports.

Keyumars Bayat, father of Shohreh Bayat, is the former owner of the Sepidrood Rasht football club and currently serves as the head of Gilan Province's Board of Chess, a position he has held for the past twelve years.

His daughter made headlines in late January this year, when state media criticised her for photos in which she appeared not to be wearing the hijab as she judged the first matches of the Women's World Chess Championship in Shanghai, where she served as chief arbiter for the tournament.

Facing a major backlash, the 32-year-old chess referee later said she would not travel back to Iran unless the country's chess federation could guarantee her security

All women in Iran are required to wear the headscarf in public. Female athletes are also required to wear it abroad.

According to media reports, Bayat then sought asylum in the UK. In an interview with the BBC Radio 4's "Sunday Programme" she said Iranian media had intentionally used a photograph of her from an angle which concealed the headscarf she had been wearing at the tournament.

Read more: Iran's top chess champ 'ready to change nationality' over Israel ban

She announced that she would stop wearing the hijab altogether, and refused to write a public apology as requested by the Iranian Chess Federation in an act of protest against the country’s strict modest laws.

"The hijab is something that hurts me. I don't believe in it, and it's not optional, it's just forced by the government, we have to wear it. I believe it's a tool of misogynistic oppression," Bayat told the BBC.

In a public letter six months later, her father said that he has been targeted by the Iranian authorities for his daughter's actions, through "political pressure" to have him dismissed from his post as head of the provincial chess board, without specifying details.

The Bayat family are not the only figures in Iran’s chess scene to clash with the country’s conservative ruling establishment.

Mitra Hejazipour was removed from the national team from refusing to wear the Islamic headscarf during the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Russia in January this year. She currently lives in France.

Alireza Firouzja, the world’s second-highest-rated junior plater, bypassed a ban on competing against Israeli competitors by refusing to play for Iran, choosing instead to play under the FIDE flag.

Agencies contributed to this report

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