Soumya Swaminathan, the Indian Chess player, has withdrawn from the Asian Team Chess Championship because of the necessary head scarf rule in the country. The championship was is going to be organized from July 24 to August 6. She expressed her feelings about the withdrawal in a Facebook post, writing, “I find the Iranian law of compulsory Headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic Human Rights including my right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran.”
“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.”
However, she seems to acknowledge that the championship is a huge opportunity for her, as she expressed further, “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.”
Indian shooter Heena Sidhu, had previously declined to travel to Iran for the Asian Airgun meet for similar reasons. Soumya’s decision is being lauded on Social media, as people are appreciating her for standing for the right causes for the Human rights and not giving to the rule that compels women to wear the head scarf.