Calling on participants to respect “cultural differences”

The Independent reports:

The world’s top female chess players have reportedly been told they must wear hijabs if they wish to compete in next year’s world championships.

The next Women’s World Championships are due to be held in Tehran, Iran in March 2017 but several Grandmasters have threatened to boycott the tournament if female players are forced to conform to the country’s strict clothing laws.

Here’s an idea – don’t hold international championships and other contests in countries that do that. Saudi Arabia and Iran should be off that particular list.

Chess’ governing body, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), has come under criticism for its decision to host the tournament in Iran and was accused of failing to stand up for women’s rights.

The body’s Commission for Women’s Chess defended the move, calling on participants to respect “cultural differences”.

No. No no no no. Never “respect” the kinds of “cultural differences” that entail unequal treatment of some people.

Also what about the “cultural differences” within Iran? It’s not as if the imposition of hijab is universally loved in Iran; it’s not as if there are no women who hate it and rebel against it as much as they can. What “cultural differences” exactly does the body’s Commission for Women’s Chess have in mind? Those of the theocrats as opposed to the population? That’s just saying “bow before power” – and it makes no sense in this context, which is the choice of venue.

US Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze also expressed her frustration that she would “have to miss her first Women’s World Championship for many reasons” and tweeted a link to the US State Department’s warning about American citizens still being at heightened risk of arrest.

“I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women’s rights are being severely restricted in general.”

Cultural differences are one thing and human rights are another. Human rights take precedence over cultural differences. If a cultural practice violates human rights, no one should “respect” it.

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