2020 Women’s World Chess Championship
According to an Opinion piece written by Shohreh herself and published by The Washington Post in February 2020, she defected from Iran and found asylum in Britain.
After the last game of the 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship match, Shohreh found herself in Russia with an Iranian passport fearing for her life or imprisonment if she returned to Iran.
*Being the Chief Arbiter at the 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship match is comparable to being the head referee at the NFL’s Super Bowl in the USA!
She makes a life-changing decision. See the rest of the story and photos below.
In Her Own Words
The wind blows in my hair,
blows away all sorrow in my heart,
makes my heart light,
I know it is on my side.
Embraces Repressed Jewish Heritage
After some time in Great Britain, Shohreh embraced her family’s Jewish heritage that had been repressed her entire life in Iran.
“My whole life has been about showing the wrong image of me to society because Iran wanted me to be an image of a religious Muslim woman, which I wasn’t,” Ms. Bayat said in an exclusive interview with the Telegraph about her Jewish roots that first came while she was waiting for asylum in the UK.
Her paternal grandmother, Mary, who moved to Iran from Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, during World War II, was Jewish.
“If Iran knew that I had a Jewish background, Iran would never allow her to be General Secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation,” she said, recalling anti-Jewish remarks she had heard from chess officials.
Recently, Ms. Bayat, who now wears her long, straight, dark hair loosely, celebrated the Jewish New Year for the first time in her life.
“It was wonderful. It was something I never had an opportunity to do,” said Ms. Bayat from her temporary home outside London, describing her excitement as she sat for the Rosh Hashanah dinner of apple, honey and challah.
A return to Iran is out of the question for Shohreh.
Last year, Iran sentenced three women to a total of 55 years in prison in Iran for violating the hijab law.
Hoping to be with her family and husband again one day, she doesn’t apologize for her decision to drop the hijab and the defect.
“I have no regrets.”
The Rest of the Story
At 32 years old, Shohreh Bayat rose to the top of the FIDE–International Chess Federation arbiters.
In Shanghai, China, at the beginning of Round 3 of the 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship, Shohreh was photographed leaning over the chess table, where she appeared not to be wearing a hijab.
The photo spread quickly on Iranian social media, which is heavily monitored by the government there. See photo below.
Then What Happened?
“The accusation was that I deliberately had no head covering in order to protest against the hijab,” Shohreh wrote in an email. “I was shocked and panicked.”
Shohreh told the BBC* that in the photo she was in fact wearing the hijab, which hung loosely on the back of her head in the image.
*Quotes from article by Nancy Gillen, reported by BBC.
Shohreh said in her email that the Iranian Chess Federation asked her to issue a statement supporting the hijab, but she refused.
“In my conscience, I could not do it,” she said. “There are many people in prison in Iran because of the hijab, it’s a very serious issue.”
The Awakening, Decision & Transformation
“I believe people must be free to choose what they want to wear,” Shohreh said in the email. “I have never worn the hijab out of choice.”
She told the BBC that after reading the news accounts in Iran, she decided to stop wearing the hijab altogether so she could “be myself.”
“In my conscience, I could not do it.”
“I have never worn the hijab out of choice.”
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