In a suspected demonstration of solidarity with the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran, two Iranian chess players, Sara Khadem and Atousa Pourkashiyan, have taken part in this week’s International Chess Championships tournament without hijabs.
Both highly accomplished in their field, Khadem is ranked 804 in the world and has earned the titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster, and Pourkashiyan is a six-time Iranian women’s champion as well as a fellow Woman Grandmaster.
The FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships, in which both women are competing, is taking place throughout this week in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Reports on the tournament posted by two Iranian news outlets, Khabarvarzeshi and Etemad, included photos of both women taking part without their hijabs, despite headscarves being mandatory under the strict Islamic law enforced in Iran.
— Reza H. Akbari (@rezahakbari) December 27, 2022
Khadem and Pourkashiyan are yet to comment on the reasoning behind their decisions to show their hair during the tournament, though it is suspected that it was done in solidarity with the recent demonstrations against Iran’s clerical leadership.
These anti-regime protests have been continuous since mid-September, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in hospital after suffering a horrific beating from Iran’s morality police who arrested her for the sole reason of not wearing a hijab correctly, deeming it “inappropriate attire.”
According to Amini’s cousin, Erfan Mortezaei, the young woman was “tortured and insulted” before she died.
In one of the boldest challenges to the state’s leadership since the 1979 revolution, countless women of all ages both within Iran and globally have acted in courageous defiance of the nation’s oppressive regime by removing and in some cases burning their hijabs or cutting their hair.
Khadem and Pourkashiyan are now the latest of several Iranian sports women to compete without their hijabs.
In October, Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competed in South Korea with her hair showing, and in November, archer Parmida Qasemi, also from Iran, dropped her headscarf during an awards ceremony in Tehran.
Both women later issued statements claiming their actions were unintentional, however it is suspected that they were pressured to make such comments negating the moves by officials to avoid further fueling the anti-regime fire.
Related Articles: Women of Iran Say, ‘Killings After Killings, to Hell With Morality Police!’ | Iran Unrest Continues: Death Toll Rises to at Least 185, Including 19 Children
Iranian chess players have been making similar stances for some time too, with the sport a particularly apt discipline for such demonstrations given its popularity with young people in Iran.
Dorsa Derakhshani, International Master and Woman Grandmaster, was barred from Iran’s national team after refusing to wear a hijab at the 2017 Gibraltar Chess Festival.
Similarly, Mitra Hejazipour, Woman Grandmaster, was expelled from the Iran Chess Federation in 2020 after removing her hijab during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow.
Both women fortunately evaded the potentially life-threatening consequences of their actions and continue to compete internationally, now living in and representing the USA and France respectively.
Earlier this month, Iran’s attorney general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri reported that the morality police had been “shut down.”
It is evident however, that the oppressive regime they upheld remains firmly intact.
These heartbreaking statistics may soon rise, as Oslo-based agency Iran Human Rights (IHR) have also reported that around 100 people detained for taking part in the protests are currently facing capital punishment, with at least 11 already sentenced to death.
The decisions of Sara Khadem and Atousa Pourkashiyan to compete without their hijabs, whether they are outwardly claimed as acts of protest or not, were extremely courageous.
Their bravery to stand with the women of Iran despite the possible consequences will surely resound with people across the globe, hopefully resulting in the continuance of efforts to dismantle the death-dealing Iranian regime with renewed vigour.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Close up of white king taking down black king. Featured Photo Credit: GR Stocks.