Iran Bans Sibling Teen Chess Prodigies Over Religious Laws

As always, Iran lacks chill

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Feb 22, 2017 at 12:17 PM ET

A pair of sibling chess players, 18-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani and her 15-year-old brother, Borna Derakhashani, have been kicked off the Iranian National Chess Team and prohibited from competing in any domestic tournaments because they dared to challenge Iran’s strict religious laws.

At the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival in Gibraltar, Dorsa, an International Master and Woman Grand Master who currently ranks as the eighth-best woman under 21 and 92nd best overall by the World Chess Federation, competed without wearing a hijab.

As translated by Radio Free Europe:

“Unfortunately, what shouldn’t have happened has happened. Our national interests have priority over everything,” Pahlevanzadeh said. He added that there would be no “leniency” for those who trample on Iran’s “ideals and principles.”

“We’re considering measures that will prevent similar incidents from taking place in future tournaments,” he told Fars.

According to the Times, Pahlevanzadeh also said both siblings “would be dealt with severely.”

Neither of the Derakhashanis have issued a public statement since the ban was handed down. Dorsa is currently a student living in Spain, while her brother resides in Iran. But given Iran’s hijab laws, a dress code which requires women to wear the religious headscarf whenever they appear in public, Dorsa faces a possible arrest. In May 2016, eight Iranian models were detained and charged with “un-Islamic” activities because they posted Instagram images in which their heads were exposed, which was part of a larger crackdown on online behavior. The codes have been enforced since the 1979 revolution and were formally codified by the Iranian Parliament in 1983.

Beyond state-sanctioned punishment, there is a long and frightening history of locals committing acts of brutal violence against women that dare to challenge the dress codes. The Times also spoke with Darya Safai, an Iranian exile and human rights activists, who managed to force Sepp Blatter and FIFA to begin speaking out against Iran’s rules barring women from setting foot in a soccer stadium. Safai told the Times that sports federations have a duty to use their clout to effect change. “Twenty-eight years after the revolution they are still showing no sign of compromise,” she said.

The Women’s World Championship is currently underway in Tehran, but a number of top players chose not to attend. While some cited security concerns, U.S. women’s chess champion, Nazi Paikidze, said Iran’s appalling treatment of women and requirement that she cover up while competing made it impossible to participate.

“I think it’s unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens,” she wrote in an Instagram post. In an interview with Glamour magazine, Paikidze said that doing so would provide a terrible example for young girls who play chess, and adding, “I know I am not going to be able to change the Iranian laws alone, but I hope my voice can be heard and help encourage others to unite and push forward.”