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Why An Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Just Supported The World Chess Championship Boycott In Iran

Iran’s largest ever women’s sporting event has sparked protests over the country’s religious dress code

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. (Getty Images)

U.S. women’s chess player Nazi Paikidze-Barnes announced last week that she will boycott February’s Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran due to the nation’s compulsory hijab laws, which require women to wear religious head coverings.


The protest has been lauded by some of her peers but criticized by several Iranian female chess grandmasters, including Mitra Hejazipour, who called the boycott detrimental to female sport in the country, which has never before hosted a women’s sporting event of this size.

“These games are important for women in Iran,” Hejazipour told The Guardian. “It’s an opportunity for us to show our strength.”

On Thursday, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, announced her support for Paikidze-Barnes in a post to her official Facebook page.

“Seriously, which is more important,” Sotoudeh wrote, according to a translation by University of Montreal Ph.D. candidate Vahid Yücesoy, “the idea of (not yielding to) compulsory veil or our country’s progress in the realm of chess?”

Soutoudeh rose to prominence in 2009 for defending imprisoned oppositionist activists, journalists, and politicians. She was arrested in 2010 for “spreading propoganda and conspiring to harm state security” and was originally sentenced to 11 years in prison, before being released early in 2013. While Sotoudeh was in prison, the European Parliament awarded her the €50,000 Sakharov Prize for individuals who make important contributions to the fight for human rights.

As of this writing, a change.org petition created by Paikidze-Barnes calling to “Stop Women’s Oppression at the World Chess Championships by Challenging FIDE’s Decision” has garnered more than 15,000 signatures. Gary Walters, president of the U.S. Chess Federation, also issued a statement this week to FIDE, the World Chess Federation, in support of Paikidze-Barnes.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





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The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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