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Iran Chess Federation Expels Veteran Female Grandmaster For Defying Hijab

Iranian chess champion, Mitra Hejazipoor playing at Moscow World Rapid & Blitz Championship.
Iranian chess champion, Mitra Hejazipoor playing at Moscow World Rapid & Blitz Championship.

Iran Chess Federation on January 2 expelled veteran Iranian female chess grandmaster Mitra Hejazipour for boldly removing her scarf during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow which is considered as defiance of the compulsory Islamic dress code (hijab).

"She has no place in the Islamic Republic's national team anymore," the president of Iran's Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlavanzadeh, announced on Thursday and claimed that Hejazipour who lives in France had privately registered for competing in Moscow games.

The Islamic Republic requires Iranian female athletes to respect the so-called Islamic dress code and hijab in all international tournaments.

The 27-year old Iranian grandmaster was expelled after gloriously playing for her homeland for eighteen years. She is the first Iranian female athlete to represent Iran without wearing the hijab In the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic.

Born in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, Mitra won the silver medal in the World Under-10 Girls Championship in 2003 and the Iranian Women's Championship title in 2012. In 2015 she earned her grandmaster title by winning the Asian Continental Women's Championship which qualified her for the next Women's World Championship.

The president of Iran's Chess Federation also claimed that he officially informed the International Chess Federation (FIDE) that only Sara Khademeosharia and Atousa Pourkashiyan were representing Iran as soon as he found out about Hejazipour's registration in the Moscow championship games despite the fact that during the games FIDE was announcing Hejazipour's performance as one of Iran's representatives on an hourly basis.

On December 21 when it was reported that Parham Maqsoudlou and Mohammad-Amin Tabatabaei had competed against two Israeli athletes, Pahlavanzadeh argued that the two had not been aware of the nationality of their rivals.

The incident forced the Islamic Republic authorities to ban the Iranian national chess team from participating in the next international chess championship.

Referring to another Iranian chess superstar, Alireza Firouzja, Pahlavanzadeh claimed that the French Chess Federation is highly shielding the 16-year-old Iranian, keeping him in quarantine, and denying him all means of communication. Firouzja lives in France and has decided not to return to Iran.

Firouzja won the gold medal in the U12 section at the Asian Youth Chess Championships in 2015 and the Iranian Chess Championship title in 2016. In 2016 he was awarded the title of International Master (IM) by FIDE.

The Iranian chess prodigy, Firouzja, made history by becoming the first-ever Iranian-born male player to rank second in the World Rapid Chess Championship in Moscow championship (26-30 December 2019). He finished the tournament with 10.5 points, only one point short of the first place.