12/29/2017, 19.44
SAUDI ARABIA

Chess grandmaster boycotts Riyadh, not for politics but to feel free

Her decision will cost her two titles and the chance to earn US4 160,000. Other high-level players have also refused to participate.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chess grandmaster Anna Muzychuk, 27, is not playing at the world speed chess championship in Saudi Arabia, which began on Wednesday in Riyadh.

For her, "the most important thing" is to feel free when she plays; hence, her refusal to be treated as a "secondary creature".

By boycotting the event, the Ukrainian player gave up her titles in rapid (ten-minute) and blitz (five-minute) chess titles, and earnings of up to US$ 160,000.

"It was a difficult decision to make. I am not into politics. I'm a sportswoman,” she told Paris Match.

“For me the most important thing is to feel free when I play and I'm not alone . . . Many high-level players have refused to come to Saudi Arabia,” said Muzychuk, referring to her sister Mariya, champion in Sochi (Russia) in 2015, and other players from China, United Kingdom and Denmark.

During the interview, the Ukrainian grandmaster was asked about her experiences in recent tournaments in Qatar (December 2016) and Iran (March 2017).

"In Qatar, we did what we wanted," she explained. "In Iran, it was a difficult experience for me. I absolutely wanted to participate in the world championship to win the trophy I didn’t have. I reached the final, but it was tiring because I was forced to wear the veil all day!”

On Facebook, she wrote that she did not want to wear an abaya, the long Islamic dress that covers women from head to toe because "everything has a limit and the veil in Iran was more than enough."

On 23 December, Muzychuk announced her decision on her website page, explaining that she would not take part because she did not want to wear the abaya, be escorted around, and feel as "a secondary creature".

Recent overtures towards women by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not convince the player, nor did the organisers' assurances that players did not have to wear a veil or an abaya, but only dark trousers and high-necked white blouses.

Speaking with Paris Match, she talked about positive changes in Saudi Arabia, adding that she would be "happy to come when the situation for women is different from the one that is imposed today in Saudi Arabia".

In the Wahhabi kingdom, women are still required to cover their hair and body in public, and cannot travel or receive medical treatment without the permission of a male warden (usually a father, husband or son).

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