Iranian chess player who competed without hijab granted Spanish nationality


An Iranian chess player who competed in an international tournament without a hijab has been granted Spanish citizenship.

Sara Khadem, also known as Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, drew the ire of the Iranian Government after she was pictured at the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Kazakhstan last December without a hijab.

Iranian officials subsequently issued an arrest warrant for her.

She moved to Spain in January, where she has remained since.

The headscarf is mandatory under Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. Iranian female athletes are also required to abide by the code when representing the country at international events.

Laws enforcing mandatory hijab-wearing triggered widespread unrest in Iran when a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of the morality police in September last year.

Khadem met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in January.

“How much I have learned today from a woman who inspires me, the Women’s Chess Grandmaster Sara Khadem,” Sánchez tweeted after their meeting.

“All my support to women athletes. Your example contributes to a better world.”

Spain’s Justice Minister Pilar LLop granted Khadem citizenship on the basis of “exceptional circumstances”.

Speaking to Reuters in January, Khadem said she had no regrets over her gesture in support of the protest movement against her country’s leadership.

Removing the hijab was “something that I thought was right to do and I don't regret anything”, she said, adding that she only used to wear the headscarf at tournaments when there were cameras, and that many Iranian sportswomen felt the same way.

“But it (no hijab) has become one of the symbols of the movement in Iran and I also decided to finally do something that I wanted to, to be myself...I was motivated by the people of Iran.”

Khadem is ranked 771st in the world, according to the International Chess Federation’s website.