Shohreh Bayat: Iranian chess referee fears ostracism over her activism as she challenges Russian chief of sport’s governing physique 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 headband on the Ladies’s World Chess Championship in China and Russia. She refused to bow to the regime’s stress however, consequently, has not returned house 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 together 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 largest stars, although it got here at a tough time as protests unfold throughout her house nation of Iran after the demise of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian girl 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 spread of grievances with the regime.

“It reminded me of my own story,” Bayat advised CNN. “So I decided to stand up for women’s rights in Iran. During the tournament I wore a t-shirt with the motto of Iranian people ‘WomanLifeFreedom’ and I wanted to stand 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 top events are required to dress in due decor and discretion” and that Bayat “disregarded direct instructions given to her to stop wearing slogans or mottos.”

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

The arbiter’s handbook does say officers should “follow the dress code” and that they have to be “dressed properly, helping to improve the image of chess as a sport.” CNN has reached out to FIDE to make clear the costume code that was anticipated for the October occasion.

Pissed off 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 subsequent day.

Bayat says she was as soon as once more requested by an official to take it off, solely this time she was advised 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 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 purposes.”

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 subsequent day, although she needed to do the “right thing.”

On condition that FIDE’s constitution states that it’s “committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights,” Bayat stated she determined she had not violated any rule.

“I thought carefully, and I realized that it is not me that was making chess political but Arkady,” Bayat stated.

“I was following FIDE rules, but Arkady was breaking them by forbidding me to stand up for women’s rights in Iran.”

FIDE refuted any notion that politics performed a component in Dvorkovich’s request to Bayat.

“We were not judging her views or her activism, but the platform and moment she chose for it,” FIDE advised 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 combating towards the Russian invasion, and likewise in reminiscence of the 176 people who had 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 in search of UK asylum


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She says nothing was stated to her in regards to the blue and yellow outfit however, since leaving the event in Iceland, Bayat advised CNN that she hasn’t been invited to a different FIDE occasion, regardless of the group recognizing her as the most effective feminine 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 advised her it was due to her outfits in Iceland.

Her identify is presently listed on the database and FIDE advised CNN that Bayat was nonetheless very a lot in competition to officiate future occasions however that it has “more International Arbiters than world events, so we need to establish 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 all the time maintained his proximity to the Kremlin wouldn’t impression his work for FIDE and famous that he was one of the senior institution figures in Russia to query the struggle in Ukraine.

Nonetheless, Bayat advised CNN she believes Dvorkovich is just not accepting criticism of Iran as a result of Russia’s hyperlinks with the nation – Iran continues to assist Russia with navy assist for the struggle 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 laws in 2020 after it allegedly advised 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 through which occasions to take part.

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

“I find it extremely ironic that FIDE finds my human rights t-shirt political, but when the Iran Chess Federation repeatedly forces its players not to play against 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 stress from Russian authorities with reference to Bayat’s assist of the Iranian protests, FIDE stated it had whole and absolute religion in him.

“While we respect Ms. Bayat’s political stance and activities, any FIDE officials need to follow political neutrality while on duty, and of all the official positions one can hold, that of an arbiter is the one that demands higher standards of integrity, neutrality, and discretion,” FIDE stated in a press release to CNN.

“No matter how noble or uncontroversial the cause is, doing activism from that role is inappropriate and unprofessional. She was indeed asked not to wear any slogans while acting as an arbiter and explained the reasons why.”

Bayat’s activism has attracted the eye of the most important 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 needs to make up its mind. On which side do we actually stand?”

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

“I was initially trying to support Iranian women. I think that’s important and it’s very nice to see other people are supporting me for doing the right thing,” she stated.