Saudi Arabia has sparked controversy by denying visas to seven Israeli players who were to participate in the ongoing King Salman Rapid and Blitz World Chess Championship in Riyadh.
A Saudi official has revealed that the visas were denied as diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel were non-existent.
In response, the Israeli Chess Federation has claimed monetary compensation.
Saudi authorities purportedly led the Israeli Chess Federation to believe that their players would be allowed to attend the championship despite the absence of diplomatic ties. Interestingly, players from Qatar and Iran were granted last-minute visas even though the kingdom has strained relations with them.
Further, Anna Muzychuk, a Ukrainian player had earlier stated that she would boycott the event as she didn't want to wear the full-length robes worn by Saudi women.
The World Chess Federation clarified that the dress-code won't be mandatory for players, in "a first for any sporting-event in Saudi Arabia."
However, Muzychuk stuck to her decision to protest restricted women's rights in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has indeed pushed forward reforms intended to open the kingdom up to the rest of the world.
These reforms range from allowing women to drive to permitting them inside sporting arenas.
However, its human rights record and discriminatory treatment of women continue to tarnish its image.
The kingdom has a long way to go to improve its image.
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