One of Iran’s top-ranked female chess players is reportedly planning to settle in Spain after photographs emerged of her taking part in an international tournament without a headscarf.
Sara Khadem, ranked 804 in the world and 10th in her home country, was not planning to return to Iran after the tournament due to fear of reprisals.Instead, Khadem and her husband, the film director Ardeshir Ahmadi, and the couple’s young child will move to an unnamed Spanish city.It remains unclear whether the family had already obtained residency – the report notes that they own a flat in the country – or if they plan to seek asylum.The report comes after Khadem, also known as Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, made headlines around the world as she appeared to play for a second day at the Fide World Rapid and Blitz Chess championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, without a headscarf.The 25-year-old player has become the latest in a string of sportswomen who have seemingly defied Iran’s strict dress code for women since anti-government protests erupted in September.The nationwide demonstrations have gripped Iran and continued for more than 100 days after an Iranian-Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of morality police after being arrested for not complying with the country’s hijab regulations.Iranian authorities have cracked down hard, with at least 100 of those arrested facing charges punishable by death, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. Almost 500 protesters were believed to have been killed, the group said this week, while the UN said in November that at least 14,000 people had been arrested.As a broad base of protesters wages one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s leadership since the 1979 revolution, they have seized on shows of support from Iranian athletes and celebrities.In October, the Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi received a hero’s welcome on her return to Tehran after she competed in South Korea without a headscarf. After Rekabi apologised and insisted that her hijab had accidentally slipped off, activists expressed concerns that the comments had been made under pressure from Iranian authorities.Weeks later, video emerged of the Iranian archer Parmida Ghasemi that appeared to show her allowing her headscarf to drop during an awards ceremony in Tehran as members of the audience cheered her on. Ghasemi later said she did not notice that her hijab had slipped.In comments reported by state media in November, Iran’s deputy sports minister, Maryam Kazemipour, said some Iranian female athletes had acted against Islamic norms and then apologised for their actions.Several national sports teams have refrained from singing the national anthem, notably before Iran’s opening match at the football World Cup. The team sang ahead of their second and third games.