I’m not sure how the decision was made to hold one of the chess world’s most important tournaments in the backwards and bigoted nation of Saudi Arabia… but it was, and organizers are now regretting the decision.
Ukrainian chess champion Anna Muzychuk refused to defend her titles in Riyadh this week due to the nation’s abhorrent record on women’s rights.
“As to whether it was right or wrong, there will certainly be people who will support me and people who will condemn me,” Muzychuk said. “But I took this decision and I am responsible for it.”
Saudi Arabia ended a ban on women driving in September but the conservative kingdom’s male guardianship system requires women to have a male relative’s approval for decisions on issues like education, employment, marriage and travel plans…
In what the World Chess Federation (FIDE) called an “historic agreement”, Saudi Arabia relaxed its dress code for the tournament, which has a total prize pot of $2 million.
This meant women would not need to wear the hijab or abaya — the loose-fitting, full-length robes that women are typically expected to wear. Instead, inside the venue, women could wear dark formal trouser suits and high-necked white blouses.
But these changes did not go far enough for Muzychuk.
Instead, Muzychuk has decided to boycott the tournament because the nation continues to oppress women, treating them as second class citizens.
“I have refused to go,” Muzychuk said. “It was certainly quite difficult to take such a decision because I am a current world champion in these chess disciplines – rapid chess and blitz. So if I do not participate in this tournament, I will lose both titles.”
However, there are other reason for Muzychuk to boycott the tournament… like the fact that Saudi’s are racists and have refused to entry to Israeli chess players.
It’s a move that should shame the World Chess Federation (FIDE) who scheduled the tournament in Saudi Arabia. The nation has refused entry to seven Israeli players, proving that they have no right to be hosting a competitive tournament of any kind.
On Sunday, Moshe Shalev, the interim head of the Israel Chess Federation, told The Times of Israel that the seven players had not been granted visas, despite indications last month that they would make history by being the first representatives of the Jewish state to publicly take part in an event hosted by the kingdom, which does not officially recognize the State of Israel.
Seven Israeli players had filed requests for visas to participate in the games to be held in Riyadh on December 26-30, as part of the world rapid and blitz chess championships.
If the players are not allowed to participate in the tournament, Israel will consider suing FIDE for the hateful treatment of their players.
ICF head Moshe Shalev said they would consider suing the World Chess Federation, an attempt to deter more discrimination against Israelis from happening in the future.
According to Aizenberg, the tournament’s winners can receive up to $2 million in cash prizes and therefore the ban “presents both economic and professional damage to your players.”
“And besides, it is our right to be treated as equal among all nations of the world,” he said.
“It is most outrageous that FIDE allows a state to agree to host an international championship, without promising to accept all athletes, regardless of their country of origin,” added Aizenberg.
Again, Saudi Arabia (and any other nation refusing access to players based solely on their ethnic/national heritage) should not be allowed to host such international competitive events.