Chess player banned by Iran gets a new start in US

Dorsa Derakhshani (right) competing at an international chess tournament in Oslo. Norway, in 2016. (Courtesy: Tarjei J. Svensen‏ via Twitter)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Chess player banned by Iran gets a new start in US

ST. LOUIS, US: A 19-year-old Iranian woman banned from competing in the name of her county after attending an international competition without an Islamic headscarf has taken her game to St. Louis University.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Dorsa Derakhshani is now at a freshman at the Missouri school, which has a new but highly ranked chess team of top international players. The biology major decided to accept a full scholarship to play for the university this spring, in the wake of the controversy.
Issues arose when Derakhshani wore a simple headband during a February competition in Gibraltar. She was competing under the oversight of the Iranian Chess Federation, an affiliation that allowed her to enter several championship-cycle tournaments. Iranian law requires women to wear head scarves in public, but she didn’t think it would be a problem.
“I don’t know why some people have enough free time to worry about what I wear,” Derakhshani said.
She was 18 when she moved to Barcelona, Spain, and recruited by a chess club. She declined to be on Iran’s national team sponsored by the government because she didn’t want to be controlled by the rules of the team, including wearing a head scarf even while outside Iran.
But days after the Gibraltar tournament, the head of the Iranian Chess Federation said Derakhshani and her 14-year-old brother could no longer play in the country or under Iran’s name. He cited Derakhshani’s refusal to wear a head scarf and said her brother had played against an Israeli player. Iran doesn’t recognize Israel and has a policy of not competing against Israeli athletes.
Derakhshani said her brother was paired by a computer and didn’t know the player’s nationality before the match.
“It was just cruel,” she said. “He was just a kid. He didn’t know what to do.”
Her arrival in St. Louis comes as the city becomes a major player in the chess community. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, founded by Republican millionaire activist Rex Sinquefield, hosts several national competitions.
Derakhshani said she wants to become a grandmaster, the top designation for a chess player.


A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Updated 20 July 2018
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A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails, men want beards.
The Navy said last week that servicewomen could sport ponytails, lock hairstyles, or ropelike strands, and wider hair buns, reversing a policy that long forbade females from letting their hair down.
Servicemen immediately chimed in on social media, asking the Navy if they could grow beards. A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times.
Beards were banned in 1984. The Navy wanted professional-looking sailors who could wear firefighting masks and breathing apparatuses without interference.
The Navy says that’s still the case. Still, some hope the change in female grooming standards opens the door.
Travis Rader, a 29-year-old naval physical security officer, said allowing beards would boost morale for men, just like allowing ponytails and locks has for women. There are two things that would make many Navy men happy: beards and better boots, he added.
Rader had a 6-inch-long beard when he joined the Navy after high school.
“You take something away from somebody, and they want it more,” said Rader, a master-at-arms assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Navy announced it was adding grooming options for women during a Facebook Live event. Many black women had asked the Navy to be more inclusive of different hair textures. The Navy had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look.
Rader was one of several sailors who wrote in the comments section of the Facebook Live event to press for beards. Bill Williams, a 20-year-old naval information systems technician, commented too, asking why sailors can’t have beards if bearded civilian firefighters wear masks.
Williams said he thinks a nice, well-groomed beard looks very professional.
“It’d be great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt,” said Williams, who works at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Sailors can get permission to grow a beard for religious reasons or if they have a skin condition that’s irritated by shaving. Mustaches are allowed as long as they are trimmed and neat.
“Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted,” the policy states. The Navy isn’t currently considering changing that.
Safety continues to be the primary concern, said Lt. J.G. Stuart Phillips, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. He referenced a 2016 study by the Naval Safety Center, which concluded that facial hair affects the proper fit and performance of respirators.