UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UKLFI reports Iranian chess player for refusal to play Israeli

An Iranian player who refused to play his Israeli opponent, has been reported to the International Chess Federation, FIDE, by UK Lawyers for Israel.

During the “rapid” section of the Rilton Cup that took place in Stockholm from 27 December 2018 to 5 January 2019, Arya Gholami of Iran refused to play against his Israeli opponent.  A video was subsequently broadcast in Iran which praised Gholami’s actions and showed him visiting the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, as a reward. The video is available to view HERE.

Mr Gholami says: “In the rapid section I won all six games but then I was paired with a representative of Israel. I was the leader and eventually came in second. I was there alone, it was all very quick and I had to make a decision in 2 or 3 minutes. I told the arbiter that if that was the case I would not play. The total prize was $10,000. When I saw that I was paired with an Israeli I knew that everyone would ask me why I wouldn’t play with him but I still wanted to refuse.”

The voice-over states: “The young chess player of the Iranian national team, Aryan Gholami, who refused to play a rival from the Zionist entity in a recent international tournament met today along with his family the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei. The leader praised him for what he did. Finally his wish came true and he met his beloved leader.” The video commentary says that “the highlight of this young Iranian’s activity was his refusal to play against a sportsman from the Zionist regime.”

UKLFI’s letter to FIDE’s President, Arkady Dvorkovich, points out that Gholami had breached numerous rules and regulations of both FIDE and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As a “Recognised Federation” of the IOC, FIDE is bound, at all levels, to follow the Olympic Code.

UKLFI is asking FIDE to investigate the breaches and take appropriate action.  If no action is taken then UKLFI will refer the matter to the IOC.

The problem of discrimination against Israeli players has become an important issue in world sport, with the following events raising concerns at the highest levels:

  • October 2017 Judo Grand Slam Abu Dhabi – Israeli athletes were forced to compete without a flag, anthem or nation. Following correspondence from UKLFI and others, Israeli athletes were able to compete under their own flag in the tournament the following year in Abu Dhabi.

  • December 2017 International Chess Federation (FIDE) championship in Saudi Arabia – Israeli players barred from entering the country. In December 2018 the world chess tournament was moved from Riyadh to Moscow because Saudi Arabia refused to guarantee that Israeli participants would be permitted to enter the country.

  • April 2018 Taekwondo World Junior Championships, Tunisia – Four Israeli athletes prevented from competing

  • August 2018 Badminton tournament in Dnipro, Ukraine – Saudi Arabian doubles players refused to play against an Israeli and Ukrainian pair. Following UKLFI’s submissions to the Badminton World Federation, the Saudi Arabian players and their coach were banned from playing for 6 months.

  • January 2019 – Malaysia refused to grant visas to Israeli swimmers for the World Para-Swimming championship. Following submissions from UKLFI and others, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripped Malaysia of the right to host this championship.

The winner of the Rilton cup was Tamir Nabaty of Israel.   Arya Gholami of Iran was placed 28th.