Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Headscarves and Human Rights

This is a short clip from BBC World News about Indian Chess Champion, Soumya Swaminathan, who pulled out of a tournament in Iran because of a rule forcing her to wear a headscarf. Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right such a requirement is an infringement on her right of self expression...

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"I don't want to be forced to wear a hijab. Or any kind of enforceable cultural or religious dress codes. It's a very basic demand. It 's not too much to expect."

Soumya Swaminathan is an Indian chess champion. She has pulled out of an international chess competition in Iran over the country's mandatory headscarf rule. Soumya says the requirement is in violation of her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

"I should protect my own personal human rights. I felt this was the only way to do that. So I refused to play."

Soumya wants international federations to take into account the players' rights when choosing venues for major international championships.

"Why should there be a religious dress code in sport? I understand some kind of reasonable restrictions in a place of worship. But there is no such place for things in sport."

The Asian Chess Federation has declined to comment.

"This is probably a good way to start a conversation about it. And for people to actually take action. Because if no one notices, no one speaks about it. Then people are not held answerable and nothing changes."

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The Pack

The pack contains the video in HD format together with a PDF featuring a crossword, the transcript, the transcript with gaps, a word list and a list of definitions. How to use the pack largely depends upon individual classes. Does a class need to go through any of the vocabulary first or will they be able to work out the meaning from the context?

One method to introduce the topic is to ask the students if there is any dress code at their school or place of work. How strictly is the code observed? Then ask if anyone knows what a hijab is and after that is revealed ask if anyone knows where hijabs are usually worn and by whom. Then show the video. The main point to draw out is Soumya Swaminathan's demand that International Federations take into account human rights when deciding on the venues for International competitions.

Rather than using the worksheets all in one go it's best to space their use out over several weeks with gaps in between. This way the vocabulary is more likely to stick in the memory.

getfile: Headscarves and Human Rights

ZIP: Video and PDF, 25.46 mb