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Shohreh Bayat: Iranian chess referee fears ostracism over her activism as she challenges Russian chief of game’s governing body FIDE


Three years after fleeing Iran, chess referee Shohreh Bayat fears being additional ostracized after difficult the sport’s governing physique and its president, Russia’s former deputy prime minister, over her selection of clothes at a event in October.

Again in 2020, Bayat was criticized in Iran for not carrying the suitable scarf on the Ladies’s World Chess Championship in China and Russia. She refused to bow to the regime’s strain however, consequently, has not returned home out of worry of punishment.

Now, three years on, Bayat has raised the hackles of the Worldwide Chess Federation (FIDE) and its president for carrying garments in assist of the Iranian protests and the folks of Ukraine.

The 35-year-old Bayat, who now lives in London along with her husband, not too long ago officiated on the 2022 Fischer Random World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October.

The event was one other alternative for Bayat to officiate a number of the sport’s greatest stars, although it got here at a tough time as protests unfold throughout her dwelling nation of Iran after the demise of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian lady died in mid-September after being detained by the nation’s morality police, allegedly for not abiding by the nation’s conservative costume code, sparking outrage round a variety of grievances with the regime.

“It jogged my memory of my very own story,” Bayat instructed CNN. “So I made a decision to face up for girls’s rights in Iran. In the course of the event I wore a t-shirt with the motto of Iranian folks ‘WomanLifeFreedom’ and I needed to face with them.”

Bayat stated that after the primary day of carrying the t-shirt, a FIDE official requested her, unofficially, to not put on it.

In a press release despatched to CNN, FIDE stated that “arbiters at high occasions are required to decorate in due decor and discretion” and that Bayat “disregarded direct directions given to her to cease carrying slogans or mottos.”

In accordance with Bayat, such rules are usually not present in FIDE’s arbiter handbook and he or she says no costume code was given for the occasion in Iceland.

The arbiter’s handbook does say officers should “observe the costume code” and that they have to be “dressed correctly, serving to to enhance the picture of chess as a sport.” CNN has reached out to FIDE to make clear the costume code that was anticipated for the October occasion.

Annoyed by the request to cease carrying the slogan, Bayat stated she determined she was not breaking any guidelines so she wore it once more the following day.

Bayat says she was as soon as once more requested by an official to take it off, solely this time she was instructed the request got here from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, who beforehand served as Russia’s deputy prime minister and who attended the event in Iceland.

Bayat wearing the t-shirt during the tournament in October.

Bayat stated Dvorkovich by no means spoke to her in individual in regards to the t-shirt, regardless of being in the identical room as her when she wore it.

Dvorkovich, nonetheless, messaged her on WhatsApp – messages seen by CNN – to request Bayat not use official FIDE occasions for “political functions.”

Angered by Dvorkovich’s request, Bayat says she rapidly responded however then deleted her “emotional” reply.

Bayat then knowledgeable Dvorkovich she wouldn’t put on the t-shirt the following day, although she needed to do the “proper factor.”

On condition that FIDE’s charter states that it’s “dedicated to respecting all internationally acknowledged human rights and shall try to advertise the safety of those rights,” Bayat stated she determined she had not violated any rule.

“I believed fastidiously, and I noticed that it’s not me that was making chess political however Arkady,” Bayat stated.

“I used to be following FIDE guidelines, however Arkady was breaking them by forbidding me to face up for girls’s rights in Iran.”

FIDE refuted any notion that politics performed an element in Dvorkovich’s request to Bayat.

“We weren’t judging her views or her activism, however the platform and second she selected for it,” FIDE instructed CNN.

The next day, Bayat, who has not seen her mother and father since leaving Iran over three years in the past, stated she purchased a blue and yellow outfit and wore it in assist of the Ukrainian folks preventing towards the Russian invasion, and likewise in reminiscence of the 176 people that have been killed when Iran stated it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian airplane that crashed close to Tehran in 2020.

NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 11:  Iranian chess arbiter Shohreh Bayat poses for a portrait in Newcastle, England on February 11, 2020.  Ms. Bayat, an arbiter with the chess governing body FIDE, was presiding over a tournament in China in January when a picture of her appearing not to wear a hijab circulated in Iranian media. Commentary in the press and online accused her of flouting Iranian law, which requires women to wear a headscarf when appearing in public. Seeing this response, Ms. Bayat quickly grew afraid of returning to her country, worried she would be arrested. She is now staying with friends in the United Kingdom, where she says she is considering her options, unsure of what the future holds. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The Iranian chess referee looking for UK asylum


– Supply:

She says nothing was stated to her in regards to the blue and yellow outfit however, since leaving the event in Iceland, Bayat instructed CNN that she hasn’t been invited to a different FIDE occasion, regardless of the group recognizing her because the best female arbiter in Europe in 2022.

Bayat stated she was initially faraway from the arbiter fee – a registry of all certified arbiters – and, in a message seen by CNN, a high FIDE official instructed her it was due to her outfits in Iceland.

Her title is at the moment listed on the database and FIDE instructed CNN that Bayat was nonetheless very a lot in competition to officiate future occasions however that it has “extra Worldwide Arbiters than world occasions, so we have to set up some rotation.”

FIDE President Dvorkovich was first elected in 2018 and was re-elected for a second time period in August. Beforehand, the 50-year-old served as Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister between 2012-2018 following a stint because the Kremlin’s high financial adviser.

The Kremlin welcomed Dvorkovich being reelected as FIDE president final 12 months, however he has at all times maintained his proximity to the Kremlin wouldn’t affect his work for FIDE and famous that he was probably the most senior institution figures in Russia to question the war in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Bayat instructed CNN she believes Dvorkovich is just not accepting criticism of Iran attributable to Russia’s hyperlinks with the nation – Iran continues to assist Russia with military aid for the warfare in Ukraine.

She notes FIDE’s dealing with of the Iranian Chess Federation as additional proof of this.

Dvorkovich wrote a letter urging Iran to adjust to FIDE’s rules in 2020 after it allegedly instructed its gamers to not play towards Israeli opponents.

The performing president of Iran’s Chess Federation responded, saying that Iran has continually been in compliance with FIDE’s guidelines and statutes, and that the athletes themselves resolve by which occasions to take part.

Regardless of being given a warning, Iranian gamers are still forfeiting games and FIDE has not but taken concrete motion.

“I discover it extraordinarily ironic that FIDE finds my human rights t-shirt political, however when the Iran Chess Federation repeatedly forces its gamers to not play towards Israel, FIDE is silent and turns a blind eye to that,” Bayat stated.

Requested by CNN whether or not it was assured Dvorkovich was working with out strain from Russian authorities with reference to Bayat’s assist of the Iranian protests, FIDE stated it had whole and absolute religion in him.

“Whereas we respect Ms. Bayat’s political stance and actions, any FIDE officers must observe political neutrality whereas on obligation, and of all of the official positions one can maintain, that of an arbiter is the one which calls for increased requirements of integrity, neutrality, and discretion,” FIDE stated in a press release to CNN.

“Irrespective of how noble or uncontroversial the trigger is, doing activism from that position is inappropriate and unprofessional. She was certainly requested to not put on any slogans whereas performing as an arbiter and defined the the reason why.”

Bayat’s activism has attracted the eye of the largest names within the sport after the Iranian chess referee tweeted in regards to the incident once more on Sunday.

US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura not too long ago tweeted “#WomenLifeFreedom #IStandWithUkraine” in response to a message about Bayat’s tweet.

In the meantime, chess celebrity Magnus Carlsen’s coach Peter Heine Nielsen tweeted: “The chess world must make up its thoughts. On which aspect will we truly stand?”

Bayat, who now additionally works in major faculties instructing chess, stated the assist she’s obtained has been “heartwarming,” because it was when she first sought asylum in England again in 2020.

“I used to be initially attempting to assist Iranian girls. I believe that’s vital and it’s very good to see different individuals are supporting me for doing the appropriate factor,” she stated.

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