Iranian chess referee fears government retribution after hijab uproar 

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Shohreh Bayat at the Women’s World Chess Championship in Shanghai, China. (FIDE)
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Shohreh Bayat at the Women’s World Chess Championship in Shanghai, China. (FIDE)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Iranian chess referee fears government retribution after hijab uproar 

  • Bayat is scared to return to Iran and fears the government will “make an example” of her
  • Many high profile Iranians have made outspoken comments against the government recently as anti-regime protests continue after the country’s military shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane

LONDON: An Iranian chess referee is scared of returning to her home country after she was photographed at a match in Shanghai with her head uncovered.
The photo of Shohreh Bayat, 32, at the Women’s World Chess Championship started circulating in Iranian state media. The reports claimed she was not wearing a headscarf and was protesting against Iran’s strict hijab law, which requires women to cover their hair and dress modestly. 
“I turned on my mobile and saw that my picture was everywhere [in Iranian media]. They were claiming I was not wearing a headscarf and that I wanted to protest against the hijab,” Bayat told the BBC.
The match was the first time that Bayat was the event’s chief arbiter — an achievement that has been overshadowed by the controversy over her head appearing uncovered. 
Bayat told the BBC that although she disagrees with the mandatory hijab law and believes that everyone has the right to dress how they like, she always covers her head at international tournaments and her head was actually covered during the match.
She said Iran’s chess federation instructed her to “write something” in response to the uproar from the media, which she took to mean an apology and a defense of Iran’s dress code. She said she refused. 
Bayat is now scared to return to Iran and fears the government will “make an example” of her. 
One of only a few top level women arbiters in the world and the only one in Asia, Bayat said she is unhappy at the fact that the focus of Iranian media coverage was on her hijab and not her success as an Iranian woman. 
“I can’t think of any Iranian women who have worked at such a high-level tournament. But the only thing that matters for them is my hijab, not my qualification. That really bothers me,” Bayat said.


Bayat’s case comes soon after Iran’s first female Olympic medal-winner defected. Taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh posted on Instagram that she had left Iran partly because she was fed up with its mandatory dress code.
Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, implied in an Instagram post that she had moved to Europe.
“No one has invited me to Europe and I haven’t been given a tempting offer. But I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery,” she said.
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years... I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated,” she wrote.”None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”
She said that while the government exploited her medals politically, officials would humiliate her with remarks such as “It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs!“
The cases come as many high profile Iranians have made outspoken comments against the government as anti-regime protests continue after the country’s military shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane. 
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most popular female actors who has appeared in an Oscar-nominated film and acclaimed TV dramas, wrote in a post on Instagram on Sunday that Iranians are not “citizens” but “captives”.
“I fought this dream for a long time and didn’t want to accept it. We are not citizens. We never were. We are captives,” she wrote
Alidoosti said that she had replaced her profile picture with the color black in mourning for demonstrators shot dead by security forces last November.
Iranian authorities continue to quell protests and fired live ammunition to disperse demonstrators in Tehran on Sunday. 
At least two presenters working for state Iranian broadcaster IRIB announced their resignation in the wake of attempts by state officials to deny that Ukrainian jetliner 752 had been shot down by mistake by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. (IRGC) air defense force.
Zahra Khatami and her colleague Saba Rad resigned from their roles at IRIB, saying they could not continue to work in TV after the jetliner incident. 
A third presenter announced she had left her job some time ago after lying on behalf of the state for 13 years. In an Instagram post, Gelare Jabbari apologized for broadcasting “lies” and wrote: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”


Italian TV chef serves up cooking lessons at Gaza prison

Updated 5 min 10 sec ago

Italian TV chef serves up cooking lessons at Gaza prison

GAZA: An Italian TV chef is serving up a taste of home cooking in the unlikeliest of places: a Gaza jail.
Gabriele Rubini, a former rugby player who reinvented himself as Chef Rubio, is teaching 10 inmates at the prison near Gaza City how to make the perfect pasta — as well as learning about Palestinian cuisine.
“My target is to share with them all I know and I want to learn from them all they know,” he said during his 10-day trip to the enclave with an Italian NGO.
He said Palestinian food shares many similarities with that of Italy.
“Around the Mediterranean Sea all the cultures were mixed,” he said. Chefs “use not many ingredients, good quality and it is all about sharing the food.”
A longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, Rubini has been sharing his experience in Gaza with more than 750,000 fans via his Facebook page.
Speaking to AFP, Rubini said he worked in prisons because “jail is a place where there is a lot of humanity.”
“Someone made a mistake and can in jail (be) reborn and be a better man in the outside world,” he said.
Islamist movement Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2008 and have fought three wars with Israel, which maintains a crippling blockade on the impoverished territory.
Rubini’s pupils, serving time for non-violent crimes, said they took inspiration from the cooking lessons.
“This is a great training opportunity,” said Sami Baraka, who has served most of a two-year sentence.
“I’m going to open an Italian restaurant in Gaza.”

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