Nazi Paikidze is the reigning U.S. chess champion, but when the Iranian government told her she had to wear a hijab, the Muslim head veil, and restrict contact with men in order to compete in the world competition hosted by Iran this year, she refused. The "morality laws" were supported by FIDE, the international organization that coordinates the world chess championship event.
“By participating, I would be forced to submit to forms of oppression designed specifically for women,” Paikidze told Marie Clare magazine. “It sets the wrong example, particularly for young girls interested in chess.”
Paikidze further explained her decision in a post on Instagram in September.
This is a post for those who don't understand why I am boycotting FIDE's decision. I think it's unacceptable to host a WOMEN'S World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens. For those saying that I don't know anything about Iran: I have received the most support and gratitude from the people of Iran, who are facing this situation every day.
Paikidze also retweeted this tweet noting the irony of members of the Swedish team, a country known for its feminist advances, giving in to the gender-specific oppression imposed by Iran by wearing the hijab.
“I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression." She told the founder of a group organizing against Iran's hijab laws. "Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”
When an Iranian chess player criticized her boycott saying that the tournament were important for women in Iran and presented them with an opportunity for show their strength, Paikidze appeared to respond on her Instagram account to the charge.
A message to the people of Iran: I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I stand for freedom of religion and choice. I'm protesting FIDE's decision not because of Iran's religion or people, but for the government's laws that are restricting my rights as a woman.
The world chess championship began February 10th and will continue until March 5th. For boycotting the event, Paikidze forfeits the opportunity to win over $100,000 in award money.
She posted this tweet during while the competition continued without her: