By Christopher Hamill-Stewart
July 13, 2021
World-renowned chess player Garry Kasparov has spoken out about the plight of everyday Iranians at the hands of the regime and urged the US to cease negotiations with Iran, calling them a “terrible mistake.”
Kasparov, who now works as chairman of the New York-based Human rights Foundation, told an Iranian opposition event attended by Arab News: “For all the foreign interference, terror, and war caused by the illegitimate Iranian regime, it is vital to remember that no one suffers more than the citizens of that regime.”
The government, Kasparov continued, “has no authority from the people. Instead, it fears its people, it oppresses and tortures them.”
Kasparov is among the world’s most decorated chess players. He was world number one for a record breaking 255 months, and held the highest ever rating in chess for 14 years, until being dethroned in 2013 by Magnus Carlsen.
Since retiring from chess, he has devoted himself to campaigning on human rights issues and against autocracy — including against his own home country, Russia.
Kasparov denounced the West’s overtures towards Iran, saying: “How can the free world, the world of democracies that supposedly value human life, negotiate with a regime of murderers?”
Those negotiations, he added, are a “terrible mistake.”
He continued: “How can the leaders of countries like the United States, which often talks about the importance of human rights, sit across the table from Raisi, whose role in the 1988 massacre is well established?”
In 1988, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president-elect, was a key figure in what rights-group Amnesty International dubbed “death commissions,” which saw him ordering thousands of political prisoners to death by summary execution, following show trials.
Among those who continue to suffer at the hands of Tehran today are chess players just like Kasparov.
Despite boasting a host of renowned players of its own, Iran continues to stymie their careers for political reasons.
Players are regularly prevented from competing against Israeli counterparts, instead being forced to withdraw from tournaments or resign matches — behavior that prompted a severe warning last year from the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
“We are increasing pressure on Iran to follow the law, and if it does not comply, the Iranian federation will see the consequences,” said FIDE.
If the Iranian Chess Federation refuses to comply with the rules, FIDE said, “they will definitely be suspended.”
Last year, an Iranian chess referee was forced to flee Iran and claim asylum in the UK after she was pictured wearing a hijab that Iranian media condemned as too loose-fitting.
Separated from her husband and family, she told Arab News at the time: “The officials were watching me and checking my photos. Sometimes they’d send bad reports about us. It was affecting my career and my happiness.”
She added: “Even in other countries, we don’t feel free.”