Two Iranian chess champions have refused to play against Israelis on the 2019 World Youth and Junior Chess Championships.
Hundreds of athletes from all over the world are participating in the tournaments this month in Mumbai and Delhi in India.
Iranian Grandmaster Mohammad Amin Tabatabei and International master Aryan Gholami, both 18 years old, were absent from the tournament where they were supposed to face Israeli opponents.
Iran has no diplomatic relations with Israel as a result of Tel Aviv’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.
The International Chess Federation (FIDE) told Iran International that it is reviewing the issue of Iranian players avoiding playing against Israeli opponents.
FIDE told Iran International that the issue has been raised in the meeting of the federation’s executives and said the federation is obligated to punish such practices.
According to internet website Chess24, Gholami was no longer present at the championships after forfeiting the game against Israeli player Alexander Zlatin, while Tabatabei, who was supposed to play against Or Bronstein, remained in the competition by pledging he would play the next game.
Earlier this year, Gholami gave up the chance to win a $10,000 prize when he ruled out playing against Israeli Ariel Erenberg at the Rilton Cup in Sweden.
Gholami told Swedish chess website Schack.se that he had no ill will towards the Israeli, but “if I were to play against an Israeli, it would have serious consequences for me”, in references to possible repercussions from his government.
Meanwhile, at the end of the fifth round of competitions, Iranian female chess player Mobina Alinasab reached the top of table after beating her Indian opponent.
This is not the first time athletes from Arab nations or Iran have been told to pull out or refuse to compete with Israeli competitors in sporting events.
In August, Iran was banned indefinitely from participating in any further international judo competitions for refusing to let its athletes face Israeli opponents.
Iranian judoka fighter Saeid Mollaei, 27, said he was pressured by his country’s authorities into avoiding facing an Israeli in the final round of the -81kg class at the Tokyo World Championships.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, then Iranian world champion Arash Mirasmaeili refused to fight Israeli judoka Ehud Vaks, earning praise back home.
At Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was sent home after refusing to shake the hand of Israeli Or Sasson after their bout.