Armenia’s multiple chess champion, member of the Armenian national women’s chess team Maria Gevorgyan has been asked to refuse to participate in the tournament of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to be held in Turkey so that the Azerbaijanis can participate.
This is what international chess master Maria Gevorgyan told Armenian News-NEWS.am.
Recently, Maria Gevorgyan posted on her Facebook page a photo in which the organizer of the tournament set to be held in Turkey sent a message to Maria Gevorgyan asking her to refuse to participate in the international chess tournament since that is what the Azerbaijanis demanded.
NEWS.am SPORT: Maria, what happened? What is the problem?
Maria Gevorgyan: A couple of days ago, I received an offer to participate in the Sivas Buruciye Chess Open 2019 international chess tournament to be held in Turkey from August 18 to 24. I had participated in a similar tournament in Turkey in 2018. It was very well organized. The organizer of the previous tournament made the offer and informed that someone else was the organizer and that it was only assistance. Later, organizer of Sivas Buruciye Chess Open 2019 Mustafa Eroglu contacted me and informed me that he was booking my plane tickets. After a while, the tournament’s organizer contacted me again and said the plane tickets are quite expensive, and I told him that I don’t see any problem and can cancel my participation and not leave for Turkey. He immediately said there won’t be any problem and that he is expecting me in Turkey.
A couple of hours later, I received a message from Mustafa Eroglu telling me the following: “Azerbaijani athletes have submitted a petition if the Armenian athletes play we will not participate in the tournament.” I didn’t take any other action.
NEWS.am SPORT: And you refused to participate?
Maria Gevorgyan: Yes, I did. The organizer actually pushed me to make that decision since it is the organizers of the tournament who had to cover all my expenses. Mustafa’s message made it clear that the organizers are declining Armenia’s participation and won’t cover my expenses. The Armenian Chess Federation interfered and sent a letter to FIDE to explore the matter.
FIDE requested that the organizer of the tournament present the petition of the Azerbaijani athletes regarding the Armenian chess player’s participation. I contacted Mustafa Eroglu, but he didn’t submit any document. This is the whole story. The Armenian Chess Federation addressed another letter to FIDE to receive the international federation’s opinion on the situation. We are waiting for FIDE’s response.
NEWS.am SPORT: What do you think the reason for this was?
Maria Gevorgyan: I don’t think there was any petition. I think there was simply a conversation between the Turkish organizer and the Azerbaijani athletes. There was no problem with funding. If there was a problem with funding, the organizer would tell me.
NEWS.am SPORT: Has there ever been a case when the Azerbaijani party creates problems for Armenia’s representative to participate in the FIDE tournament?
Maria Gevorgyan: There has never been such a problem. This is very strange. By law, no country has the right to demand cancelation of the participation of any country. The particular country can boycott the tournament. For instance, three years ago, Armenia boycotted the World Chess Olympiad in Baku. It is normal that the Armenians don’t go to Baku and the Azerbaijanis don’t come to Yerevan. However, there had never been such a case.
NEWS.am SPORT: Has Azerbaijan given any explanation yet?
Maria Gevorgyan: Azerbaijan hasn’t commented yet. We want to understand who the chess players are who allowed such discrimination against Armenia. The tournament will kick off in a couple of days. I will find out who the Azerbaijani athletes are and will have a picture of the situation.
NEWS.am SPORT: What will turn out if Azerbaijan doesn’t give an explanation?
Maria Gevorgyan: The organizer will be held fully responsible. It will turn out that he has put the blame on the Azerbaijanis for no reason. After the organizer’s message, I posted an announcement on my Facebook page and attached the message that the organizer had sent. After that, he threatened that if I don’t delete my announcement on Facebook, he will address different authorities and even a court, but I didn’t delete it. My goal was to raise the issue so that everyone knows there is racism in sports as well.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia has already contacted me. As a matter of fact, the ministry processes special cases of racism in sports.
NEWS.am SPORT: What is your attitude?
Maria Gevorgyan: Chess has always brought people together. People of different nations have played together. I have always respected each opponent, without attaching importance to the opponent’s nationality. The fact that there is such discrimination in sports and that there is such an action against me is very painful. I don’t know why this happened. In any case, I think this issue has to be in focus.