Iranian chess referee is worried about her activism and being ostracized


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After fleeing Iran three years ago, chess referee Shohreh Bayat is now in danger of being expelled from the game’s governing body. She challenged its president, Russia’s former deputy prime Minister, about her dress choice at an October tournament.

Bayat was criticized by Iran in 2020 for not wearing the proper headscarf to the Women’s World Chess Championships in China and Russia. She refused to submit to the regime’s demands, and has not returned home out of fear of being punished.

Three years later, Bayat is still causing havoc with the International Chess Federation and its president, for wearing clothes to support the Iranian protests as well as the Ukrainian people.

Bayat, 35, lives in London now with her husband. She recently officiated the 2022 Fischer Random World Chess Championship, which was held in Reykjavik (Iceland) in October.

Bayat was able to officiate the tournament once again, but it was difficult because protests erupted in her homeland of Iran following the death of Mahsa.

After being taken into custody by the country’s morality police for allegedly not following the country’s conservative dress code, the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman died in September. This sparked outrage and a variety of grievances about the regime.

Bayat said that the experience reminded her of her own life. “So I decided that I would stand up for Iranian women’s rights. I wore a T-shirt that had the slogan of the Iranian people, “WomanLifeFreedom”, during the tournament. I wanted to stand beside them.

Bayat stated that the FIDE official had asked her to stop wearing the tee-shirt after she wore it for the first time.

FIDE sent a statement to CNN stating that “arbiters attending top events must dress in due decoration and discretion” and Bayat “disregarded direct instruction to her to cease wearing slogans and mottos.”

Bayat claims that such regulations are not in FIDE’s arbitrator handbook. She also says that no dress code was set for Iceland.

According to the handbook of the arbiter, officials must follow the dress code and be properly dressed for the October event. CNN reached out to FIDE for clarification.

Bayat was frustrated by the repeated requests to remove the slogan from her wardrobe and decided that she wasn’t breaking any rules. She wore the slogan again the next day.

Bayat claims that she was asked once more by an official to remove it. However, she was informed that the request was made by Arkady Dvorkovich from FIDE, the president of FIDE, who was previously Russia’s deputy prime Minister and was present at the tournament in Iceland.

Bayat claimed that Dvorkovich never spoke with her about the tee-shirt, even though she was in the same room when it was worn.

Dvorkovich, however messaged Bayat on WhatsApp – messages seen and reported by CNN – to ask Bayat not to use official FIDE events “political reasons”.

Bayat was furious at Dvorkovich’s request and replied quickly, but she then deleted her “emotional” reply.

Bayat informed Dvorkovich that she wouldn’t wear the tee-shirt the following day, even though she was determined to do the right thing.

Bayat stated that FIDE’s charter says that FIDE is “committed” to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and will strive to protect them. She said that she has not violated any rule.

Bayat stated, “I thought carefully and realized that it wasn’t me who was making chess politics but Arkady.”

Arkady broke the FIDE rules by forbidding my standing up for women’s rights within Iran.

FIDE disproved the notion that politics was involved in Dvorkovich’s Bayat request.

CNN was told by FIDE that they were not judging her views and activism but the platform and time she chose to do it.

Bayat, who had not seen her family since she left Iran three years ago, stated that she purchased a blue-and-yellow outfit for support of the Ukrainian people fighting back against the Russian invasion and in memory of the 176 people who were killed in Iran’s unintentional shooting down of a Ukrainian plane near Tehran in 2020.

The Iranian chess referee seeks asylum in the UK
04.30 Source: CNN

Bayat claims that nothing was said about her blue and yellow outfit, but she told CNN after leaving Iceland’s tournament that she wasn’t invited to any other FIDE event. This despite her being recognized by FIDE as the best female arbiter for Europe in 2022.

Bayat claimed that she was removed initially from the arbiter committee – a registry containing all qualified arbiters. CNN saw a CNN message in which a top FIDE official said it was because of her Icelandic outfits.

FIDE has her name on its database. CNN was told by FIDE that Bayat is still in contention to officiate future events. However, FIDE stated that it has more International Arbitrers than world events and that they need to create some rotation.

FIDE President’s connections with Kremlin

FIDE President Dvorkovich was elected for the first time in 2018. He was re-elected in August. The 50-year-old was previously Russia’s Deputy Prime minister between 2012-2018 after a stint as top economic advisor to the Kremlin.

Dvorkovich was reelected FIDE president last year. However, he maintained that his closeness to the Kremlin would have no impact on his work for FIDE. He also noted that he was one the most senior establishment figures in Russia to ask the warin Ukraine.

Bayat stated to CNN that she believes Dvorkovich does not accept criticism of Iran because Russia has links to Iran – Iran continues supporting Russia with military assistance for the war in Ukraine.

She also notes FIDE’s handling the Iranian Chess Federation.

Dvorkovich sent a letter urging Iran to follow FIDE’s 2020 regulations after it allegedly instructed its players not to play against Israeli opponents.

The acting president of Iran’s Chess Federation replied that Iran had always been in compliance to FIDE’s statutes and rules, and that it was up to the athletes to decide which events they would like.

Even though they were warned, Iranian players are still losing games and FIDE is yet to take concrete action.

Bayat stated, “It is extremely ironic FIDE finds my human right t-shirt politically, but when Iran Chess Federation repeatedly forbids its players from playing against Israel, FIDE remains silent and turns a blindeye to that.”

CNN asked FIDE if it felt confident that Dvorkovich was acting without Russian pressure in relation to Bayat’s support for the Iranian protests. FIDE responded that it had complete and absolute faith in him.

FIDE stated in a statement to CNN that while we appreciate Ms. Bayat’s political stances and activities, all FIDE officials must follow political neutrality when on duty. Of all the official positions one could hold, the position of an arbiter requires higher standards of integrity and neutrality.

“Activism from this role, no matter how noble or uncontroversial, is unprofessional and inappropriate. She was asked to not wear slogans as she served as an arbiter, and she explained why.

Bayat’s activism attracted attention from the most prominent names in the sport, after the Iranian chess referee tweet again about the incident.

Hikaru Nakamura, the US grandmaster, recently tweeted “#WomenLifeFreedom#IStandWithUkraine” to respond to a question about Bayat’s Tweet.

Magnus Carlsen, the chess star, was coached by Peter Heine Nielsen . He tweeted : “The world of chess needs to decide its fate.” Which side are we really on?

Bayat now works in primary schools as a chess teacher, and she said that the support she has received is “heartwarming” just like it was when Bayat first applied for asylum in England in 2020.

“I initially tried to support Iranian women. She said that she believes this is important and it’s nice to know that others are supporting me in doing the right thing.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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