One of the best chess players in the world is willing to lose two of her world champion titles in protest of how Saudi Arabia treats its women.
Anna Muzychuk, a Ukrainian two-time female world chess champion has refused to play at an upcoming tournament in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia because of how women are seen and treated as “secondary creatures.”
“In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature,” Muzychuk. “I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined.”
Saudi Arabia was paid an estimated $1.5 million to host the championship, but females could only compete in high-necked white blouses and black trousers, which was a compromise the World Chess Federation (FIDE) made with the Saudi instead of a full-body abaya.
The prize money is much higher than usual to entice competitors.
Saudi Prince Mohammed has introduced reforms improving women’s rights. Women can now drive starting next June and last October, women started to be allowed in sports stadiums for the first time. Lifting the public ban at movie theaters is expected to be next big change.
With that being said, females are still not given close to the same rights as men.
Muzychuk does not approve of this or the compromise that the Saudi and FIDE stroke and ultimately refused to compete, as did her sister, who is also a world-class chess player.
Last year, Muzychuk won in two disciplines of speed chess– Rapid and Blitz. Both require that the players complete their moves in 15 minutes or less.
She is also disappointed that this issue isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
“All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares. That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles,” said Muzychuk. “The same goes for my sister Mariya [also a world-class chess player] – and I am really happy that we share this point of view.”
Then seven Israeli competitors weren’t granted visas to attend the tournament.
“Sports and competition should serve as a bridge between groups and nations,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “It is an accepted principle in competitive sports — and part of FIDE regulations — that hosts of international competitions must permit all competitors to participate. The Saudi refusal to provide visas to the Israeli team is a violation of this principle and a violation of sportsmanship.”
Both Saudi Arabia and the FIDE agreed to issue visas to chess players from Iran and Qatar, but there was no mention of Israel competitors being allowed.
Author’s note: Why is this not being covered more? Is it because it shows the ugly side of Saudi Arabia’s culture where women are second class citizens? This is oppression at its worst, yet there are no protests? She is a hero.
Editor’s note: This will also cost her likely several hundred thousand dollars. This woman deserves a lot of credit for her stand against sharia law and the oppression of women.