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Chess Official In Iran Fired Over His Daughter's Hijab

Keyumars Bayat (L), was forced to resign as a chess official. FILE PHOTO
Keyumars Bayat (L), was forced to resign as a chess official. FILE PHOTO

A chess official in Iran says the Islamic Ministry of Sports has pressured him to resign from all his sports activities because his daughter "had not respected the so-called Islamic dress code".

Former owner of the Sepid Roud-i Rasht soccer club, Keyumars Bayat has been the head of Gilan Province Board of Chess for the past twelve years.

His daughter, Shohreh Bayat, who is a prominent instructor of referees at the International Chess Federation (FIDE), has been accused of not observing the Islamic hijab at FIDE Women’s World Championship (4-25 January 2020) in Shanghai and Vladivostok. She did not return to Iran after the event.

"If the Ministry of Sports concludes that by eliminating me it will win Iran's Chess Federation's election and installs its nominee at the helm, it will be a golden page in my records of honor that the ministry sees my absence at the election as its political success", Bayat has asserted in a public letter.

Bayat's daughter, Shohreh, is a senior member of the FIDE Referees Committee who, for the first time, was a chief arbiter at the Chess World Cup, in Russia. For a long time, 32-year-old Shohreh Bayat was the secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation.

Following her decision to remain abroad and seek asylum in the U.K., Ms. Bayat told the BBC Radio 4 on January 5, 2020, that she feared to return to Iran because she worried about retaliation for protesting Iran’s strict hijab law, which forces women in the country to cover their hair and dress modestly.

While insisting that she had her scarf on at the championship, Bayat immediately asserted, "People should have the right to choose the way they want to dress, it should not be forced".

If I had returned to Iran, Bayat bitterly said, they would have punished me with imprisonment, 75 lashes, and probably invalidating my passport.

"The human rights situation in Iran is catastrophic," Ms. Bayat said, adding, "Iranian women are still fighting to enter the stadiums. Iranian women do not have the right to ride bicycles and even choose their clothing. Iranian women need global support. Life is very hard under daily harassment. I hope Iranian women will be free in the future."

Almost six months after the row over Shohreh's Bayat's loose hijab, her father says that the Islamic Republic authorities are after him.

The only reason behind exerting "political pressure" on me, Bayat insisted in his public letter, is his daughter's decision to stay outside Iran.

Bayat believes that people should not be punished for their relatives' wrong-doings. "Why did God not dismiss Noah as a prophet for his son's thoughts? Perhaps the Ministry of Sports' thinking is beyond divine wisdom," Bayat sarcastically said, while thanking the local sports department for resisting 'injustice' (his dismissal) for twenty days.

Earlier, Iranian women's chess star, Mitra Hejazipour had also refused to wear a headscarf during the World Championships and went against her opponents without observing the Islamic hijab.

Mitra Hejazipour, 27, was fired from the Iranian national team in 2020 for "removing her headscarf (hijab) during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow". Hejazipour asserted at the time that the hijab is a "limitation, not protection, as official regime propaganda claims. She currently lives in France.

The world's chess prodigy, Alireza Firouzja has also decided to compete under the FIDE flag after the Islamic Republic Ministry of Sports decided to keep the Chess national team away from the world championship to uphold its "unwritten law" banning Iranian athletes from playing against their Israeli counterparts.