Learning the Game of Chess Helps Afghan Children Refugees

Tags: Currents chess, Inspiration, Media, refugee crisis, Refugees, World News

Currents News Staff

It’s game time for this special group of students at Stough Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina. They came to learn the game of chess.

Elshan Moridiabadi is a chess grandmaster – now living in Durham. He introduced the students to kings – queens – bishops – and noble knights.

The students and their families are refugees from their homeland of Afghanistan where chess, some say, was born.

“Both Persia and India claims chess as its own,” said Carol Meyer.

Before long, the students set up their own armies for battle. Meyer, Executive Director of U.S. Chess, says the game itself has been attacked in Afghanistan.

“There was a time back in the early 2000’s when the Taliban government was first installed where chess was actually banned,” Carol said.

With the Taliban back in control, chess may once again become a crime. Principal Chris Cox says here, the game has helped to break down barriers.

“Obviously – in a new place, at a new time – and feeling very foreign to them, this is something that really gives them a little familiarity with something that they love – as simple as the game of chess,” Chris said.

“And again, that’s why we do what we do right? Just to have our kids and see that twinkle in their eyes when they’re learning. And all of these students are still trying to master the English language, so one connection for them with the game of chess has been really, really great.”

In the end, each student took their own new chess set home.

“We see chess as a universal game – and it’s a universal language,” Carol said. “Today these kids were able to move the pieces even though they haven’t yet mastered the language that we were speaking in the room.”