Revealing my position regarding 2017 Women’s World Championship

I would like to thank everyone who voiced their opinions, whether for or against the 2017 Women’s World Championship in Iran, in a respectful and professional manner. This is what I asked for. It is important to have civilized dialogues and discussions.

It is rare to have everyone agreeing 100% on any single issue. There will always be disagreements. But it is critically important to listen, analyze, and try to understand people we do not agree with.

For the first time, I will share with you my personal belief. A hero of mine is Jesse Owens. He was an African American track & field star who captured four Olympic gold medals in the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany, in front of Hitler. Many considered him as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”.

Hitler, as all of you know, was a monster. He was responsible for the murder of countless Jews. Around 300 members of my own family were slaughtered by the Germans in Auschwitz.

Mr. Owens had a choice, to compete in Berlin or to boycott. He received an enormous pressure to boycott the 1936 Summer Games and Hitler. Even in his own circle, some encouraged him to boycott while others encouraged him to use his talent to speak up against Hitler by competing. It was not an easy decision for him or anyone.

At the end, Mr. Owens chose to compete. By winning four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 × 100 meter relay, he has been credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.” Did Mr. Owens make the right decision? I believe he did. But even until this day, some believe he made the right decision while others still believe that he should have boycotted.

We are facing a similar situation with the Women’s World Championship in 2017. FIDE did not decide to “give” the Women’s World Championship to Iran. Of course we would all want the event to be held in Hawaii or Monte Carlo, etc. But after the first bidding deadline, no country made a bid. After an extension, Iran was the only country which made a bid. So the choice is whether to have the Women’s World Championship or to cancel it. In addition, none of the 159 delegates at the FIDE General Assembly in Baku objected.

Most in the Western world are in agreement that there is a problem with women’s rights in Iran. I am certainly in this group. But the disagreement is how to tackle this delicate and contentious issue. Some believe that boycotting is the answer while others believe that by having this event in Iran, it will put the focus on the issue of women’s rights in the forefront, and this is the way to change and progress.

As for the female qualifiers, we MUST respect all opinions, whether they want to compete or not. It is a personal decision. I will vigorously defend any player’s right to boycott, and I will also defend the decision of any woman who chooses to compete with the same passion. But stop using these women, these athletes, to promote your own personal / political agendas. People can agree or disagree, but it is very wrong to attack any female player for making the decision they believe in.


Official statement regarding Women’s World Championship & the Telegraph:

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