Iranian chess player Sara Khadem, who removed hijab, receives Spanish citizenship

Iranian chess player Sara Khadem, who removed hijab, receives Spanish citizenship
2 min read
Khadem competed without her hijab - which is obligatory for Iranian female athletes when competing overseas - in late 2022 in support of the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran.
Sara Khadem, who now lives in Spain, was warned not to return to Iran following the removal of her hijab at an international chess competition [Getty]

Sara Khadem, the Iranian chess player who fled to Spain after competing in an international tournament without wearing a mandatory hijab, was on Wednesday granted Spanish nationality, a government minister announced.

"In response to the exceptional circumstances concerning Mrs Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, I have just granted her Spanish nationality," said Justice Minister Pilar Llop, quoted in the country's Official Journal of the State (BOE), and using Khadem's full name.

A 26-year-old chess grandmaster, Khadem participated in a World Cup event in Kazakhstan in December 2022, without wearing the Islamic veil, which is compulsory for women in Iran.

As she explained in an interview with AFP in February, she did so in support of the protest movement that erupted in Iran following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September last year.

Amini, 22, had been arrested by Tehran morality police for an alleged breach of the country's strict dress code for women.

A relative warned Khadem that she would be arrested if she returned to Iran.

Live Story

She decided to travel to Spain with her husband, film director Ardeshir Ahmadi, and their 10-month-old son Sam.

In January, she met Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, with whom she played a game of chess.

Iranian female athletes are required to abide by the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women, mainly by covering their heads, when representing their country at international events.

She had said she started thinking of moving abroad after the birth of her son.

"I started to appreciate living in a place where Sam could go out in the streets and play without us being worried, and many things like that. Spain emerged as the best option, thinking of Sam," she said.