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Iran Faces Chess Ban Over Refusal to Compete Against Jewish State


The Iranian Chess Federation (ICF) could be facing an imminent international ban for its continued refusal to allow Iranian chess players to compete against their Israeli equivalents, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) said.

The warning also included the mention of Iran boycotting events that lists Israeli players as participating.

“We are increasing pressure on Iran to follow the law, and if it does not comply, the Iranian federation will see the consequences,” said vice-president of the FIDE Nigel Short, according to Radio Farda. Short added that Iran’s refusal “to request their players compete against all countries in FIDE before the next GA, or any future boycott by an Iranian player will automatically result in the ICF’s suspension from all FIDE activities.”

Iran notoriously uses this practice across all sporting disciplines, where in tournaments if one of its competitors is set to go up against an Israeli, the Iranian athlete will often feign injury, bow out of the competition or just flat-out refuse to compete.

Within a few documented cases, the most recent being the Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei who claimed he was forced to lose his final two bouts at the 2020 World Judo Championships in Tokyo so as not to face his Israeli counterpart, Sagi Muki, or share the podium with him. Iranian athletes are specifically instructed by government authorities to do so. The Iranian Judo Federation was shortly placed under investigation following Mollaei’s claims, where it still remains.

According to Radio Farda, Short reported 12 separate occurrences to the FIDE General Assembly to advocate for Iran’s suspension. Instances where Iranian chess players either forfeited matchups against Israeli competitors or withdrew completely from tournaments hosting them. Short has described the Iranian efforts in the past as “absolute in-your-face racism.”

So as to hold onto its position within the FIDE and the world rankings of its players, Iran must provide sufficient reasoning to appeal the suspension, and should they not then “they will definitely be suspended,” Short said, according to the report.

Iran was already warned last June by the FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich that if it kept up its antics that the FIDE would act accordingly.

“There had been repeated cases where athletes from Iran refused to participate in games with Israeli citizens,” Dvorkovich said, according to Radio Farda. “It is important for FIDE that everyone abides the Charter, therefore we ask the ICF to confirm ‘in writing’ its position on the admissibility of the mentioned games (between Iranian and Israeli players),” he wrote.

“Failure to give such confirmation will force FIDE to discuss the compliance of Iran’s Chess Federation’s values with the principles of FIDE and the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” Dvorkovich said.

Radio Farda added that Farhad Nikoukhesal, the chairman of the ICF, claims Iran is “working in compliance with FIDE’s rules and adhere to FIDE’s statutes.” He further claimed that it is the choice of the competitor whether to compete or not, and it is not whatsoever influenced by the government – although there have been numerous documented accusations pointing to the contrary.

Short denied Nikoukhesal’s claims, and noted the aforementioned case of the judoka Mollaei, where after making claims of being forced to throwing his final two bouts he sought asylum in Germany and in the future will compete under a foreign flag.

Two of the most successful Iranian chess players, Ghazal Hakimi Fard and Alireza Firouzja, both renounced their Iranian nationality following years of instruction to avoid competition with Israelis.