Hosting almost 200 players from 70 countries competing in the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship in Riyadh was an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to showcase the recent easing of their oppressive Sharia-based cultural laws. But they probably didn’t realize hosting the Championship would put them between a rock and a hard place until it was too late.
Ukrainian chess champion Anna Muzychuk refused to defend her titles in Riyadh this week because despite the recent loosening of the iron-fisted religious rule of Wahhabi Islam the kingdom remains an oppressive environment for women.
“As to whether it was right or wrong, there will certainly be people who will support me and people who will condemn me,” Muzychuk said. “But I took this decision and I am responsible for it.”
Saudi Arabia ended a ban on women driving in September but the conservative kingdom’s male