To boycott or not to boycott….

October 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

At the moment controversy surrounds the holding of the 2017 World Women’s Chess  Championship. It is being held in Iran and the contestants are forced to wear the hijab. Some potential contestants have announced a boycott. Human rights champions like Nasrin Sotoudeh have weighed into the debate.

It brought to mind a tournament to which I was invited in the early nineties in Indonesia – Indonesia proper that is, not Bali, which is what most Australians mean when they say they are going to Indonesia. I was forced to consider the fact that if I went, I would have to dress differently from usual. Non-bridge playing friends thought I should be refusing to go because of Indonesia’s on-going human rights issues.

I went. I went and hated being in Indonesia, partly because of the being female problem, partly because it was the first place I’d been to since a trip to Argentina in the dark days of 1978 that simply felt bad. Corrupt at best. Although in theory I believe that boycotts of sporting events do have a meaningful impact on the politics which inspire them, bridge is never going to do that. It is an exceedingly unpopular game with no media appeal whatsoever. At the same time, the tiny bridge community of Indonesia is (or at least was) Christian dominated. Christians who were around this time extremely concerned about the violence being inflicted upon them in Indonesia. To boycott the event would have been to abandon them and they were my friends and colleagues. So I went.

Nobody should be playing women’s events, they should all be boycotted. But beyond the usual reason why they should be boycotted – because to accept the existence of women’s chess/bridge is to accept inferiority – and beyond any personal sense of worth which is clearly weighing on the minds of some of these women contestants, I read that another reason for boycotting this event is the danger that it will be used as propaganda  ‘[a] tool to tell Iranian women that even non-Iranians are comfortable with wearing the compulsory hijab’.

Places to read about the issues involved:

Iran, chess, and the psychological bullying of non-hijabi defiant women here

Why An Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Just Supported The World Chess Championship Boycott In Iran here

Women’s World Chess Championship 2017 wiki page here

 

 

 

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