Iranian chess player receives Spanish nationality after hijab protest


Iranian chess player Sara Khadem competes on December 26, 2022.—Reuters
Iranian chess player Sara Khadem competes on December 26, 2022.—Reuters

Sara Khadem, an Iranian chess player who gained international attention for competing without wearing a hijab, has been granted Spanish nationality, according to Spain’s Minister of Justice. 

Khadem, also known as Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, participated in the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in December 2022. During the tournament, she was photographed without wearing a hijab, which is mandatory in Iran, leading to the issuance of an arrest warrant against her in her home country.

Following the championship, Khadem decided to stay in Spain, where she has been residing since. Her act of appearing without a hijab in a sporting event was part of a broader movement of sportswomen challenging Iran’s conservative dress code and anti-government protests that started in September of the previous year. 

These protests were ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody after being detained for not adhering to the country’s dress code.

In light of the unique circumstances surrounding Khadem’s situation, Spain’s Council of Ministers granted her Spanish nationality through a naturalisation letter, as announced by Pilar Llop, the Minister of Justice. The decision was deemed exceptional due to the challenges Khadem faced in her home country as a result of her public act during the chess championship.

In January, Sara Khadem had the opportunity to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who expressed admiration for her actions and considered her an inspiration. He took to Twitter to share his sentiments, acknowledging the importance of women athletes and their positive impact on the world.


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