Iranian chess players Mitra Hejazipour, left, and Sara Khademalsharieh play at the Chess Federation in the capital Tehran on October 10, 2016. Atta Kenare / AFP
Iranian chess players Mitra Hejazipour, left, and Sara Khademalsharieh play at the Chess Federation in the capital Tehran on October 10, 2016. Atta Kenare / AFP

Iran players say hijab no reason for world chess boycott



TEHRAN // Female chess players in Iran have hit back at calls to boycott the world championships due to be held in Tehran, after a US champion who opposes the country’s Islamic dress code called for the venue to be moved.

Iranian chess players say the campaign will hurt women in their country.

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran has required women to wear the Islamic headscarf in public places but US chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes has said she will boycott the Tehran championships in February because she refuses to wear the hijab.

“This campaign against the tournament is against Iranian women and it doesn’t help at all,” said Sara Khademalsharieh, a 19-year-old international master from Iran.

“It’s the first time we are hosting a world championship, not only in chess but [in any] sport, and I think it’s very important for Iranian women to have this chance to hold such major events.”

Her comments were echoed by teammate Mitra Hejazipour, a 23-year-old grandmaster.

“The hijab is not oppression. We are used to it and it’s one of Iran’s laws and we accept it,” she said.

Paikidze-Barnes has launched a petition calling for the tournament to be moved.

“I think it’s unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens,” the 22-year-old Georgian-American wrote on Instagram.

Her petition has been backed by some leading figures in chess, including Nigel Short, the British coach who once trained Iran’s national team.

Under Iranian law, women can only show their face, hands and feet in public and are supposed to wear only modest colours.

Over the years, women have pushed back the boundaries of the law, with many, particularly in the capital, wearing loose, brightly coloured headscarves far back on their heads.

But they still risk fines and even lashings from “morality police” if they go too far.

The head of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said the calls for a boycott were unreasonable.

“Everywhere in the world, there are rules on how to cover your body. There is no place in the world where people can wear nothing in public,” he said.

The head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Geoffrey Borg, expressed surprise at the boycott campaign and said federation members had not expressed “the slightest objection” when Iran was selected as host.

Khademalsharieh and Hejazipour said the interests of Iranian women were better served by engagement with the world than by boycotts.

She pointed to the example of karate, in which women were previously banned from competing in the hijab.

“Now [women wearing the hijab] are allowed and they are getting some medals and I think this helps Iranian women more than isolating the country,” said Khademalsharieh.

* Agence France-Presse

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

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Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

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Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

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The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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Focus on gratitude: And do so deeply, he says. “Think of one to three things a day that you’re grateful for. It needs to be specific, too, don’t just say ‘air.’ Really think about it. If you’re grateful for, say, what your parents have done for you, that will motivate you to do more for the world.”

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Mark Chahwan, co-founder and chief executive of robo-advisory firm Sarwa, forecasts that Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024) will start investing in their teenage years and therefore benefit from compound interest.

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1.5 million

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The percentage of stateless people in Lebanon, who are not of Palestinian origin, born to a Lebanese mother, according to a 2012-2013 study by human rights organisation Frontiers Ruwad Association

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