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.”


UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago

UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

  • The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said
  • Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR

GENEVA: Armed groups in the area of northern Syria controlled by Turkey may have committed war crimes and other violations of international law, the UN rights chief said Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in those areas of Syria was grim, with violence and criminality rife.
In a statement, Bachelet’s UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it had noted an “alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations,” having documented increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions.
The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said.
Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR.
Furthermore, increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing was causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Turkey controls large stretches of northeastern Syria through various armed groups, and is conducting operations aimed at driving out Kurdish militias and extremists.
In October last year, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies occupied a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with regime ally Moscow, while Turkey also controls a stretch of territory along its border in neighboring Aleppo province following a series of military offensives since 2016.Bachelet’s office said it had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children.
It also said that from the start of the year until last Monday, it had verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, while a further 463 civilians were injured.
“I urge Turkey to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents we have verified, account for the fate of those detained and abducted by the affiliated armed groups and hold accountable those responsible for what may, in some instances, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes,” Bachelet said.
“This is all the more vital given that we have received disturbing reports that some detainees and abductees have allegedly been transferred to Turkey following their detention in Syria by affiliated armed groups.”
Meanwhile Bachelet voiced concern that parties to the conflict in Syria were using essential services as a weapon.
“Impeding access to water, sanitation and electricity endangers the lives of large numbers of people, a danger rendered all the more acute amid fighting a global pandemic,” she said.