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Iranian Chess Star Dorsa Derakhshani Banned for Not Wearing Hijab

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Dorsa Derakhshani
Iranian chess player Dorsa Derakhshani speaks in an interview. voa

A leading Iranian chess player, Dorsa Derakhshani was barred from her homeland’s team after she refused to wear a headscarf, will now compete as a player for the United States, the US Chess Federation said.

Dorsa Derakhshani, 19, who was born in Tehran, was forbidden from playing by the Iranian Chess Federation following the Gibraltar Chess Festival in January, US Chess said on its website. She did not wear a hijab during the event.

Since then, she has moved to the United States where she attends Saint Louis University and plays for the school’s team.

Dorsa Derakhshani will now compete as an official United States chess player, US Chess posted on its website this week. US Chess is the national governing body for chess competition, sanctioning championships and overseeing player rankings.

‘Welcomed and supported’

“It feels good and … peaceful to play for a federation where I am welcomed and supported,” the website quoted Derakhshani as saying.

On a U.S. radio broadcast last week, she said: “I’m looking forward to finally having a stable trainer and a team, and I really wish to become grandmaster.”

She also said she hopes to become a dentist.

Dorsa Derakhshani holds the titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster with the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

A few weeks after the Gibraltar competition, the Iranian Chess Federation announced it was banning Dorsa Derakhshani for not wearing a hijab. It also banned her brother, who had played an Israeli player in Gibraltar, US Chess said.

Ban may be a distraction

Derakhshani said on the National Public Radio broadcast that she had competed before without a headscarf and thought the ban was issued for other reasons.

The announcement was made during the Women’s World Chess Championship in Tehran, and all three Iranian competitors had lost in the opening round.

“So in the middle of all this, they needed another distraction … which worked perfectly,” she said in the broadcast. “Everybody started talking about us.”

Several top players including the U.S. women’s champion Nazi Paikidze boycotted the Tehran competition because players were required to wear a headscarf, US Chess said.(voa)

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US publicly announced $400 Million Payment to Iran as ‘Leverage’ in Release of Prisoners

The prisoners were The Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian; Marine veteran Amir Hekmati; Christian pastor Saeed Abedin; and a fourth man, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari

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President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). Image source: Wikimedia Commons

August 20, 2016: On Thursday, for the first time the Obama administration clearly and publicly said a cash payment of $400 million to Iran was used as leverage to ensure the release of a group of American prisoners being held by Tehran.

Earlier this month, in August, President Barack Obama denied that the payment to Iran on the same day as a hostage release was “some nefarious deal,” pointing out that the transfer was announced in January, a day after implementation of the U.S. nuclear deal with Tehran.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman John Kirby repeated the administration’s position that the negotiations to return the Iranian money, the result of an aborted arms deal in the 1970s with the U.S-backed shah were conducted separately from the talks to free four U.S. citizens in Iran.

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“We had concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release,” Kirby told reporters, citing years of mutual mistrust between the two countries. “Obviously, when you’re inside that 24 hour period and you already now have concerns about the endgame in terms of getting your Americans out, it would have been foolish, and prudent, irresponsible, for us not to try to maintain maximum leverage.

“So if you’re asking me was there a connection in that regard at the endgame, I’m not going to deny that,” he added.

Jason Rezaian. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Jason Rezaian. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The prisoners were The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian; Marine veteran Amir Hekmati; Christian pastor Saeed Abedin; and a fourth man, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose disappearance had not been publicly known before he was freed.

The cash transfer and the release of the hostages — both on January 17 — came at the same time as Iran’s deal with the United States and five other world powers restraining Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons, along with the lifting of sanctions that had hobbled Iran’s economy.

Critics, especially those who oppose the Iran nuclear deal, have termed it a ransom payment. Republican lawmakers also criticized the action, saying it undermined the longstanding U.S. opposition to ransom payments.

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Iranian media reports have quoted senior defense officials as saying they considered the cash as a ransom payment.

On the day of the transfer, non-U.S. currency cash — in euros and Swiss francs among others — was stacked on wooden pallets and flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane.

It was the first installment on a $1.7 billion settlement stemming from the failed U.S. weapons pact with Iran in 1979 just before its last monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was toppled. The U.S. dispatched the cash in foreign currencies because any transaction with Iran in dollars is illegal under U.S. law. (VOA)

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Tehran ready to join Riyadh in fixing regional problems

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Tehran: Iran is ready for talks with Saudi Arabia for the good of the region and to solve problems facing the regional countries, an Iranian foreign ministry official said on Tuesday, according to state TV. “We welcome dialogue and cooperation with Saudi Arabia with a view to restoring peace, security and welfare to the region,” Press TV quoted Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying.

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“If Saudi Arabia plays a constructive role, it will definitely benefit” from the implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers reached in the Austrian capital of Vienna last month, he said. However, if Saudi Arabia continues its “negative game,” it should anticipate the repercussions which will pose “serious threat to security and sustainable development” in the region, he added.

Earlier this month, Amir-Abdollahian urged normalization of relations between the two Islamic states, saying that Iran and Saudi Arabia had the potential to interact constructively over regional issues. “We believe that the coercive policies of Saudi Arabia to solve regional issues, particularly those of Yemen, are strategic mistakes,” Amir Abdollahian said. “Although we do not agree with these policies of Saudi Arabia, we think bilateral relations should be normalized,” he said. Tehran and Riyadh should start “straightforward, effective and constructive talks to fight terrorism and extremism and to restore security and stability to the region,” Amir-Abdollahian said. Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of arming and financing Houthi Shiite fighters, an accusation strongly rejected by Tehran.

(IANS)

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British embassy in Tehran reopens four years after closure

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Tehran: The British embassy in Iran reopened on Sunday, nearly four years after it was closed. Iran’s embassy in London also opened simultaneously. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrived in Tehran on Sunday for the reopening of the embassy that was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by protesters during a demonstration against sanctions against Iran.

Hammond’s visit comes weeks after Iran reached a deal with P5+1 group of world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear program. European officials have been quick to visit Tehran since July 14, when Iran struck a deal with the US, Russia, Britain, France and China plus Germany ending a 13-year stand-off over its nuclear program. The accord will see the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on Iran and has sparked a flurry of interest from countries seeking to re-connect with the oil-rich western Asian nation. Hammond’s visit was the first by a British foreign secretary since 2003. Reopening the embassies was “a first step” toward re-establishing the links between the British people and Iranian people, Hammond said.

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He said that there has been a “step-by-step” improvement in relations between the two countries since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in July 2013. “Iran is and will remain a very important country in a strategically but volatile region,” he said. Following the 2011 embassy attack, Britain said it could not have happened without the tacit consent of the Iranian regime at the time. It erupted after the Iranian parliament voted to expel the British ambassador and reduce trade relations with Britain in retaliation for British-led sanctions against Iran’s banking sector.

Students rampaged for hours through Britain’s diplomatic compounds in Tehran, tearing down the British flag, ripping up pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and trashing offices. Staff were seized by protesters. Diplomatic relations were reduced to their lowest possible level, with Britain expelling Iran´s officials. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohmmad Javad Zarif said Iran and Britain could resolve “differences through interaction and reaching a mutual understanding”. He noted that Tehran and London share views about fighting “extremism, Islamic State” and drug trafficking in the region. He said the reopening of the embassies could be a restart of Iran-Britain relations, adding, “Today (Sunday), we entered the phase of mutual relationship based on mutual respect”.

(IANS)