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Another Female Chess Grand Master Forsakes Iranian Nationality To Join Swiss Team

Ghazal Hakimifard, Iranian Women's Chess Championship title-holder. Undated photo from social media.

Grand Chess Master and member of Iran's national chess team Ghazal Hakimi has forsaken her Iranian nationality and will compete under the Swiss flag in international chess tournaments.

The twenty-six-year-old chess champion who is currently a student in Zurich, Switzerland, achieved the rank of Grand Master (WGM) in 2016. Her sister Raana Hakimifard also was granted the FIDE Master (WFM) title in 2015.

In a tweet in February Nigel Short, the Vice President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), had said that Hakimifard had applied to switch to the Swiss Chess Federation. "She most certainly will not be the last," he maintained.

The website of FIDE now shows her profile as a member of the Swiss team.

Several female Iranian chess players have switched nationality to play for other countries over the past few years. Expulsion for not complying with the compulsory Islamic dress code (hijab), or not wishing to do so is often a reason for Iranian female athletes switching to other nationalities.

In 2017 the nineteen-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani who had been expelled from the national team for attending an international competition without wearing hijab joined the U.S. team.

On January 2, the Iranian Chess Federation expelled another veteran chess grand master, Mitra Hejazipour, for boldly removing her scarf during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow.

More recently, in February 2020, international chess arbiter and the former Secretary-General of the Iranian Chess Federation Shohreh Bayat decided not to go back to Iran after photos showing her not wearing the compulsory headscarf during Shanghai Women's World Championship 2020 games were published.

Punishment for not wearing the compulsory headscarf can even be extended to the families of players. Earlier this month, Bayat's father said he had been pressured by the Sports Ministry to resign from all his sports activities because his daughter "had not respected the so-called Islamic dress code".