The best female chess players in the world have stated that they will boycott next year's World Championship in Iran, after being told they must wear a hijab if they wish to participate.
Many of these players have harshly criticized the World Chess Federation, after it was decided that the World Championship would take place specifically in Iran. The protests were mostly regarding the Iranian requirement that women cover their faces with a hijab during the chess competition.
American champions also expressed concern over whether the female participants would be safe in the Islamist country.
"It's really frustrating that I have to miss my first World Championship in several years, for unrelated reasons. It's unfathomable to host one of the most important women's contests in a place that until today forces women to cover their faces with a hijab. I understand and respect the cultural differences, but in this case, if I do not comply, I may end up in jail. Women's rights in Iran are severely limited, and it does not feel safe for women from all over the world to compete in Iran," said US chess champion Naasi Paykidosa.
Ecuador's champion, Carla Hardiya, also criticized the World Chess Federation and the Iranian government.
"There is no institution, government, or even women's championship, which can force women to wear or remove a hijab against their will," she said.
However, some of the women participating have agreed to the Iranian requirement to wear a hijab during the contest. Susan Folger, Hungary's chess champion, has announced that she will cover her face with a hijab during the entire contest, as long as the rest of the participants do likewise.
"When I visit different places with different cultures, I try to show my respect by dressing according to local custom. No one forces me to to it; I do it because I want to honor the place I am visiting," Folger said.
The world's top 64 female chess players are set to participate in the contest, but many of them have announced their intention to boycott the championship in Tehran, claiming that they do not feel safe and are not willing to wear a hijab.
According to Iranian law, women who walk publicly with their faces uncovered are subject to heavy fines or jail. Sometimes they are beaten on the streets.