I was contacted by CNN regarding the upcoming Women’s World Championship. Here is my response:
· Is it true female players have been told they must wear a hijab to compete at the above event?
I have not been informed about this so far. I do not know if all women have to comply or if exceptions can be made. I will ask FIDE about this.
… have you any concerns over it, and has anyone expressed any concern to you about it? As of right now, no female player has officially contacted me or WOM (FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess) about this particular issue.
· What is your response to the concerns outlined by some women players according to the Telegraph report? Was the following a statement that you made and are you happy to repeat it to CNN?
The Telegraph took my response (below) out of context. I have never addressed or defended this issue. I was simply addressing if “I” have a problem wearing a hijab during this chess event, and personally, I do not. I also encouraged anyone who has a problem with it to let WOM or FIDE know. I was not speaking for other women, WOM, or FIDE. No player has officially contacted me about this so far.
In addition, the Telegraph said that“Fide held a smaller Grand Prix event in Iran earlier this year where female players were required to wear the hijab. The Telegraph understands several players were left angry about having to use the scarf.” This is news to me as not a single player spoke up or addressed it with WOM to date. The only thing that I heard was the event was well organized. So if these players would have informed WOM or FIDE about their problems or concerns at that time, the Women’s World Championship may have been awarded to a different organizer. There are a few more issues:
WOM does not decide where the event should be held. We are not and have never been directly involved with any negotiation. We are not even being informed as of who the bidders are until after the winning bid is announced. We simply discuss various issues among our committee members, and female players around the world, and we send our findings / recommendations to FIDE. This is why it is important for women players to communicate with us and let us know about any issue. When they do, we always address it and do our best to help. But we cannot address the problems we do not know about.
WOM represents ALL female players. We do not just represent one or two dissenters. As you can imagine, it is a very difficult task to please everyone as players have different cultures, religious beliefs, political views. and at times personal interests. I can safely say that it is unlikely that 100% of the participants will completely agree with any particular issue.
Because of this delicate situation, we have to respect EVERYONE and handle things professionally and diplomatically in a proper setting. Using the biggest sexist in the world of chess who has nothing to do with this issue to mouth off this sensitive topic on Twitter is not the way to resolve anything. Some are clearly using this to advance their own personal and political agenda. This is why WOM is not in the habit of discussing and resolving things on Twitter.
Susan Polgar, the Hungarian-born American Grandmaster and chair of Fide’s Commission for Women’s Chess, responded by defending the federation and saying women should respect “cultural differences”.
This is wrong. I did not defend FIDE or said that women should respect cultural differences. I was simply talking about me on a personal level. I have fought for equality and women’s rights in a male dominated chess world long before many of the participants were born. I have faced discrimination and sexism throughout my entire career, more than any other female player, even until today and I have worked very hard to positively change things over the past 4 decades. But we must do things the right way and respect all opinions. We cannot publicly attack and insult the organizers, federations, FIDE, and/or other players and expect to resolve things. This is unprofessional and it will only lead to more division and animosity. Once we hear from the players, we will do our best to find the solutions or resolutions.