Dorsa Derakhshani, the second-highest-ranked female chess player in Iranian history, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why she left Iran to play chess in America. From 2011 to 2015, Dorsa played for the Iranian national team in the under 18 division. She didn’t like the strict dress code but understood that as a representative of a country, she had to follow the rules.
By 2015, when I was 17 years old, it was clear to me that other things mattered more to the federation than talent. Just one example: I had won the Asian championship three times in a row when I arrived at the tournament in India in 2014. I was favored to win, given my record. Yet federation officials weren’t focused on my game, but on my clothing. On the very first day of the tournament, they told me my jeans were too tight. I told them I would not participate in the round unless they stopped scolding me.
Dora went on to win the tournament, but the officials started coming down harder on her. She decided to leave the Iranian national team soon afterwards.
Since leaving the team, Dorsa has chosen to no longer cover her head. She said the choice to stop covering her head felt “morally right” and she does not feel guilty about her decision.
However, Dorsa faced backlash for her mutiny.
…in February 2017, the Iranian chess federation announced it was barring me from playing in Iran for not wearing a hijab at a competition in Gibraltar the month before. It also barred my younger brother, who had played an Israeli player at that same competition.
Dora decided to join the United States Chess Federation in September and enrolled at St. Louis University. She joined the chess team at her university and has since competed in a number of tournaments with them.
In this sense, America at its best reflects the best values of chess. Chess doesn’t care how old you are or what you wear. It doesn’t care about what gender you are, or how much money you have. It is blind to all of that. It cares only about merit.
That’s why I’m applying for United States citizenship and why I hope to someday represent this country in the Olympics. And it’s why barring people from the game based on their ethnicity, religion or clothing is so wrong.
Iran’s loss is America’s gain.
It’s sad that an immigrant loves America more than most Western feminists. While Linda Sarsour preaches about Islam being compatible with feminism, Dora is dropping truth bombs that destroy Sarsour’s backwards logic. Perhaps America should send Sarsour to Iran to see how long she’d last. I bet 10 minutes. pi