Britain sends another warship to Gulf

Updated 24 August 2019

Britain sends another warship to Gulf

  • Tensions have been escalating in the region, with US President Donald Trump in June calling off at the last minute an air strike on Iran over its downing of a US spy drone
  • Britain outraged Iran by seizing one of its tankers — the Grace 1 — on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria

LONDON: A third British warship is heading to the Gulf, the Royal Navy announced Saturday, amid heightened tensions in the region.
Britain has already sent the HMS Kent to cover for frigate HMS Montrose while it undergoes maintenance in nearby Bahrain, and is now redirecting the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender from its mission to the Pacific.
“Wherever the red ensign flies around the world, the UK stands by to protect freedom of navigation whenever is it tested,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Britain outraged Iran by seizing one of its tankers — the Grace 1 — on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The HMS Montrose then warned off three Iranian gunboats that UK officials said were trying to “impede” the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf on July 11.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards stormed and detained the UK-flagged Stena Impero and its 23 crew as they sailed through the Strait of Hormuz on July 20.
The British government subsequently raised the alert level for ships traveling through Iranian waters to three on a three-point scale, indicating a “critical” threat.
Tensions have been escalating in the region, with US President Donald Trump in June calling off at the last minute an air strike on Iran over its downing of a US spy drone.
The HMS Defender sailed from Portsmouth on August 12, alongside HMS Kent, which was also heading to the Gulf to replace the HMS Duncan.
HMS Defender’s commanding officer Richard Hewitt said his boat would “play her part alongside other Royal Navy warships in keeping these essential trade routes secure.”


Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

Updated 27 September 2020

Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

  • Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison
  • Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners after photos of her emerged from a match with her headscarf around her neck

LONDON: The Iranian chess referee forced to seek asylum in the UK after letting her hijab slip during a match in Shanghai this year has revealed another reason she may never be able to return to her country — her secret Jewish heritage.
Shohreh Bayat told The Daily Telegraph that she had to conceal her family background in her native Iran.
“If they knew I had Jewish background, I would never be general secretary of the Iranian chess federation,” Bayat told the British newspaper.
The leading referee said she had heard anti-Jewish remarks made by chess officials in Iran.
Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners and received death threats after photos of her emerged from the Women’s World Chess Championship in January with her red headscarf around her neck rather than covering her head.
“All my life was about showing a fake image of myself to society because they wanted me to be an image of a religious Muslim woman, which I wasn’t,” Bayat said, speaking about the Iranian regime.
The 33-year-old said she is not a fan of the hijab, but felt she had to comply — even if that meant covering only a tiny amount of hair.
Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison.
After being photographed at the world championship match with her hijab around her neck, Bayat said she was warned by family and friends not to return home.
“My mobile was full of messages saying: ‘Please, don’t come back, they will arrest you’,” she told the newspaper.
“I woke up the following day and saw that the (Iranian) federation removed my picture — it was like I didn’t exist,” she said.
Despite death threats, Bayat continued refereeing the second leg of the tournament in Vladivostok, ignoring calls from Iranian officials for a public apology.
At the end of January, she changed her return ticket and traveled to the UK —  the only Western country where she held a valid visa — and applied for asylum. She is waiting for her application to be processed.

Bayat's paternal grandmother was Jewish and moved to Iran from Azeraijan’s capital Baku during the Second World War. 
Last week, Bayat celebrated the Jewish New Year for the first time in her life.
“It was amazing. It was a thing I never had a chance to do,” she said.