After competing without hijab, Iranian chess player heads to Spain in wake of threats

An Iranian player arrived in Spain on Tuesday after receiving what a source close to her said was a warning not to return to Iran for competing without a headscarf at an international tournament. economy in Kazakhstan.

Sara Khadem, born 1997, competed in the FIDE World Blitz and Blitz Chess Championship last week in Almaty without a hijab – a type of head covering required by the strict dress code of Iran.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Khadem subsequently received numerous phone calls in which individuals warned her not to return home after the tournament, while others said she should return home. back and promised to “solve the problem”. problem.”

The source also said Khadem’s relatives and parents, who are currently in Iran, had also received threats but did not provide further details.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The source said Khadem, also known as Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, arrived in Spain on Tuesday.

A woman raises her hand.
Sara Khadem is seen here on December 30, 2022 at the FIDE World Fast and Blitz Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)

She did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. Newspapers including Le Figaro and El Pais reported last week that Khadem would not return to Iran and move to Spain.

The phone calls prompted the organizers to decide to provide security in cooperation with the Kazakh police, leading to four bodyguards standing outside Khadem’s hotel room, the source said.

The hijab law is a hot spot

Iran has been caught up in protests against the country’s clerical leadership since mid-September, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman died while in the custody of moral police, who detained her for “inappropriate attire.”

Mandatory headscarves have become a flashpoint during the unrest, with a flurry of female athletes competing abroad showing up without a headscarf in public.

Khadem is ranked 804 in the world, according to the International Chess Federation website. The website for the December 25-30 event listed her as a participant in both blitz and blitz competitions.

The protests mark one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s leadership since the 1979 revolution and have drawn Iranians from all walks of life.

Women played a prominent role, removing and in some cases burning headscarves, while protesters took heart from what they saw as support for both Iranian male and female athletes.


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