Iranian Chess Official Fears Going Home Over Hijab Photo
By Maria Cramer
- Published Jan. 15, 2020
- Updated Jan. 16, 2020, 11:08 a.m. ET
A prominent Iranian chess official said she was afraid of returning to her country after an image of her, appearing not to wear a hijab at a world chess tournament, circulated online and in Iranian media.
At 32, Shohreh Bayat is one of the few top female chess arbiters in the world with the Category A classification, a distinction given to international chess referees who have shown an excellent command of the rules of the sport.
But she said discussions in Iranian media seemed more concerned with her hijab than her accomplishments, following a recent chess match during the Women’s World Chess Championship.
After she finished presiding over the third round in Shanghai on Jan. 8, she said she turned on her phone and saw a picture of her during the tournament circulating on Iranian media, which is heavily monitored by the government.
In the photo, it appeared that her head was uncovered, a violation of Iranian law.
“The accusation in these articles was that I deliberately had no head scarf in order to protest against the hijab,” Ms. Bayat said in an email. “I was shocked and panicked.”
Now, Ms. Bayat feels she can’t return to Iran.
“Not wearing the hijab is a crime in Iran which is punishable by arrest, invalidation of the passport or prison,” she said. “I would love to return to Iran but only if I’ll be safe.”