Iran bans teenage chessplayers for "harming national interests"

2/21/2017 – Dorsa Derakhshani is a talented teenaged chessplayer residing in Spain, originally from Tehran, Iran. She is only the second female in Iran's chess history to have become an international master. Her younger sibling Borna Derakhshani is a talented lad of fifteen and has a good career ahead of him. Imagine their surprise when they were informed by Dorsa's friends that she and her younger brother had been 'banned' by the Iranian Chess Federation!

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Iran has been in the mainstream news of late for numerous reasons. In the chess world, it all began when it became known that the women’s world championship for the year 2017 would be taking place in Iran. The American champion Nazi Paikidze led from the front, converting an idea into a movement that captured the imagination of the world.

However, no movement could stop most of the top female players from making their way to Tehran to play in the knockout tournament, the chess world’s current method to decide on the women’s world champion. An interesting hypothesis to ponder over at this point would be if any movement could possibly persuade a chess player from giving up his/her personal ambitions at all. Because, whatever we the people, including the best among us, would comment about the situation today, when it comes to the ‘real decisions’, we timidly accept whatever is force-fed by the decision maker.

Nevertheless, a remarkable incident occurred at the sidelines of the ongoing Women’s World Championship. Fars News Agency has reported that the Iran Chess Federation has banned two siblings—18-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani and 15-year-old Borna Derakhshani—from domestic chess tournaments and the national team for ‘hurting Iran’s national interests.’

Dorsa Derakhshani

Borna Derakhshani [Photo: Al-Ain Youth Chess]

The Agency quotes the Iranian Chess Federation head Mehrdad Pahlevanzadesh saying, “As a first step, these two will be denied entry to all tournaments taking place in Iran, and, in the name of Iran, they will no longer be allowed the opportunity to be present on the national team," Pahlevanzadeh told the semiofficial Fars news agency.

When asked for the reasons for enforcing such a harsh ban, Pahlevanzadeh explained that Dorsa had been banned because she did not wear a hijab and Borna is being punished because he decided to play the Israeli grandmaster Alex Huzman in the first round of the recently concluded Gibraltar Masters. "Anyone can participate in it. Unfortunately, what shouldn't have happened has happened. Our national interests have priority over everything," Pahlevanzadeh said. He added that stricter actions are on the horizon for the siblings for going against Iran's principles.

"We're considering measures that will prevent similar incidents from taking place in future tournaments," he told Fars.

Borna Derakhshani lives in Iran. Meanwhile, Dorsa is a student in Spain. While Borna is no doubt a talented young boy, 18-year-old Dorsa is only the second female in Iran chess history to achieve the title of International Master. Here is an exclusive ChessBase interview hosted by our editor Alejandro Ramirez:

Dorsa talks about her chess, her move to Spain and her relationship with the Iranian Chess Federation

Dorsa commented on Facebook: "I'm not resisting Iran, and also I've chosen not to play any FIDE events for Iran for more than a year! Why on earth would I wear a scarf when I don't play for the team? I respect Iran rules and I obeyed them fully as long as I played for the national team. I chose to respect them and not make any trouble for them by not accepting their invitations for any FIDE events including Olympiad."

More reactions to follow...

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fons fons 2/23/2017 08:54
@ Zencognito

>> "Gotta love Iran, evil incarnate, and never shy about acting like a spoiled ten year old."

Looks like you've been consuming too much mainstream media propaganda.

If only the US would be so shy... about bombing countries back to the stone age.

Where are all these rabid anti-Iran posters coming from? I see a lot of suspiciously similar comments.

@ racesyn

>> "Why people keep defending the Iranian regime and their 'culture' I can't understand."

Nobody here so far has been defending Iran. Your preconceived agenda got the better of you it seems.
hariharansivaji9 hariharansivaji9 2/23/2017 05:34
I don't understand why this people have to play in Iran? I am talking about current Women championship. If Iran so much care about the scarf on head since its there rules then every one have to rights to refuse it since it against there religion rule. eg. Christian or Hindu or Buddhist not need to ware, why they have to go against there religion.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/22/2017 08:46
Daniel Miller,
I don't claim anything, I just hope anyone has some more information, especially about the organizer Nigel Short says is sanctioned by FIDE (I guess he meant GM Drazic, but I'm not sure).
For clarity: I don't hold anything against Derakhshani, who just sounds to me like a normal 18-year old trying to get control of her own life, but as she didn't shun publicity, she should be prepared to get under the magnifying glass.
Daniel Miller Daniel Miller 2/22/2017 08:09
Can someone investigate the claims of Frits Fritschy to determine if her title was rightfully earned? It seems suspicious, if true.
geraldsky geraldsky 2/22/2017 03:09
They are more secure not to come to Iran. Iran is not a place for security especially for women.
johan1234 johan1234 2/22/2017 09:46
Savage criminal Iranian government.
flachspieler flachspieler 2/22/2017 07:05
Perhaps we should start searching sponsors fo a match between the upcomming winner of the current Women's World Championship and an Israeli GM - simply to give a sign.
flachspieler flachspieler 2/22/2017 07:01
Thanks to for publishing this article.
FoxForceFive FoxForceFive 2/22/2017 06:13
This just shows how oppressive the Iran government and it's rulers are. The Muslim religion treats Women like second class citizens. I'm glad our US Women champion would not have any part of their agenda. Shame on FIDE for allowing Iran to host the women's world championship.
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 2/22/2017 05:22
This just confirms previous reports about Iran. The world needs to unite against female opression.
Logos Logos 2/22/2017 04:12
Good for Spain, too bad for Iran! Who needs their stupid rules anyway? Dorsa is better of in Europe, where women are treated like human beings. She could finish her studies and have a life as an equal citizen, instead of rotting in the s...-hole called Iran. Ten years from now, Dorsa could look back and site this as a lucky incident - one that gave direction to her life and removed doubts. Hopefully her brother will get out as well.

This is typical of the mullahs. Their main approach is to stifle and crush all those who threaten their grip on power. Even the simple act of playing chess against another human being or not wrapping a piece of fabric around one's head poses a threat to this oppressive clan and its cronies.

Shame on the Iranian Chess Federation, and on Mehrdad Pahlevanzadesh for being its puppet.
charlev charlev 2/22/2017 03:45
I came to the US from Iran in the late 70's. This kind of mentality did not exist back then. Iran was well on its way to become a Western country and most women, especially in Tehran did not wear the hijab. The Women world championship should not be held in a country that treats women this way. Iran should be proud of Dorsa, a beautiful young lady with brains. And her brother, who is 15 is also banned because he played chess with an Israeli. This to the barbaric mullah's is a national threat. FIDE should punish any federation that boycotts another country and does not allow its players to play players of that other country. What a shame that a 15 year old talented player is banned to play chess in Iran because he played an Israeli. Ignorant fools!!!
timisis timisis 2/22/2017 02:50
I was intrigued by a couple of her appearances without the hijab, after all the "Tehran hijab" is pretty much an assault on the mullahs, has nothing to do with the ultraconservative, barbaric norms of the Saudis. Looks like the young lady has made her mind and is on her way to a new citizenship.
sharkbite sharkbite 2/22/2017 02:08
Islam denigrates women. End of story.
James L Hankins James L Hankins 2/22/2017 01:54
How are these actions remotely surprising to anyone? Iran seems to be a country so sensitive that a teenager not wearing a headscarf somehow is a national security issue.

Here's an idea, maybe FIDE could have ISIS host the next WC cycle, or maybe North Korea. I'm sure the flowers are pretty this time of year in Pyongyang, and the outcome of such an event would mean about as much as the result of this tournament in Iran.
KingZor KingZor 2/22/2017 01:38
FIDE should stop pretending that Iran is a civilized country and evict them from the Federation. I recall that in the 1970s, tournaments in South Africa were not rated by FIDE, and deservedly so, due to apartheid. What has become of that sense of social justice?
Fario3000 Fario3000 2/22/2017 01:26
***** I am originally from Iran and now live in Canada. Let me tell you something: The powers that be, a.k.a "Mullahs", silence any movement, any voice, anyone, anywhere, who might slightly reveal their ugly and monstrous image and weaken their grip of power. So, please don't be surprised from whatever action they take. This IS their barbaric nature. The women world championship should NOT have taken place in Iran!!! In Iran women are NOT champions of their lives! FIDE should have rejected their request, but hey, politics and politicians usually have no such thing as "conscience". WHAT A BLOODY SHAME.
racesyn racesyn 2/22/2017 12:33
Why people keep defending the Iranian regime and their 'culture' I can't understand. The chess world needs to stand up against this tyrannical behavior.
KevinC KevinC 2/21/2017 11:58
FIDE should ban Iran from all FIDE events.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/21/2017 11:42
I just read a tweet by Nigel Short that might put Derakhshani in a different light: "Dorsa Derakshani - the #hijab hero- acquired all three of her (men's) IM norms in Novi Sad 2016. The organiser has since been suspended. 17:47 - 20 februari 2017".
I checked the FIDE rating site: there have been two closed tournaments in Februari and two in June 2016 in Novi Sad. Similar names keep returning in the crosstables. Were these tournaments rigged? Were title norms for sale? Dorakhshani's rating was 2401 after the second tournament, so did she just need a third norm? In most tournaments she played in 2016, she had a rating loss. In the Novi Sad tournaments she only gained rating points (38, 37, 12 and 7 respectively).
Chessbase, time for some investigative journalism!
Bragelonne Bragelonne 2/21/2017 11:10
I hope there will be other federations happy to provide them the support that their talent deserves.
Zencognito Zencognito 2/21/2017 10:46
Gotta love Iran, evil incarnate, and never shy about acting like a spoiled ten year old.
Aighearach Aighearach 2/21/2017 10:30
Obviously, it harms their national interest and everybody else's human interest for them to participate in hosting chess events.

calvinamari calvinamari 2/21/2017 10:11
In case there was any doubt before, this makes all the more clear that the participants in FIDE’s farce of a “championship” are allowing themselves to become pawns to the reactionary theocracy of feudal Iran. Multiculturalism does not mean that we tolerate another culture’s gross intolerance.
TheMadHatter TheMadHatter 2/21/2017 09:18
Why is there no journalist name on this article?
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/21/2017 08:54
I think the decision of the Iranian chess federation to ban these two players is more understandable than the FIDE decision to hold the World Championship in Iran. For some time, chess has been totally forbidden in Iran for religious reasons. Not complying to Iranian state rules might endanger the future of all Iranian players. And Dorakshani herself doesn't seem to have too big a problem with the ban - she already banned herself.
On the other hand, FIDE of course shouldn't organize official tournaments in countries where players are forced to comply to not universally accepted cultural or religious standards, in this case whether it's about having to wear something, but also (if this will be a problem in the near future) when not to be allowed to wear something. And of course all players, from whatever country they come (if not officially boycotted by the FIDE general assembly), should be admitted.
Fischer once played a tournament in Cuba by radio contact, because US citizens were not allowed to travel there. FIDE could have been a bit more creative.
radegoist radegoist 2/21/2017 08:27
"when it comes to the ‘real decisions’, we timidly accept whatever is force-fed by the decision maker" ...and that is the problem!!!
Individual's selfishness that harms innocent. Leaving in ignorance equals conformity with the oppressor. So what, but I will become a world champion. Surely, if everybody would boycott the tournament, the decision maker would change the venue...
alucas alucas 2/21/2017 08:21
Good luck and all the best to Dorsa Derakhshani! At the same time, what a shame that so many players have accepted to play a world championship in a country that considers women nothing more than a gold fish in an aquarium...
daftarche daftarche 2/21/2017 08:11
i am surprised how naive she is. of course she can not represent iran federation when she refuses to wear hijab and of course her brother should have refused to play israeli player. these are some obvious red lines in iran regime that every iranian citizen is aware of.
asoni asoni 2/21/2017 06:40
Ye lets give them bomb... er democracy
himalayanbear himalayanbear 2/21/2017 06:15
Unlearn... we are all born naked
With Dorsa and all girls suffering from moron elders making stereotypical and medieval choices for them
Hhorse Hhorse 2/21/2017 06:09
i sincerely hope that some rabid mullah does not issue a fatwa and send some jobless fanatics on a bounty hunt....this is terrible shame..
luisnux luisnux 2/21/2017 05:58
I'd boycott the whole tournament. There are other places to play chess that I'm sure are more beautiful, safer.
mitfit mitfit 2/21/2017 05:12
Disgusting,but nor surprising. I totally agree with Jarman.
Heavygeardiver Heavygeardiver 2/21/2017 05:09
I am concerned for their safety and family.Iran has an iron fist and will not tolerate any disobedience to authority.
Ohanessian Ohanessian 2/21/2017 04:39
What a shame!
Jarman Jarman 2/21/2017 04:31
Any foreign player who is currently taking part in Tehran's WWCh should leave in protest against the absurdly unfair treatment these two siblings are getting from the Iranian regime, which is clearly hopeless beyond despair.
WickedPawn WickedPawn 2/21/2017 04:23
We're trying to live in an unified world when we're so different from one another.