Iranian Receives Spanish Nationality after Competing without Hijab

( – Chess sensation Sara Khadem has been granted Spanish citizenship after going to self-exile in Spain following the issuance of an arrest warrant against her by her home country Iran.

Khadem – whose full name is Sarasadat Khademalsharieh – raised more than a few eyebrows when she competed without her hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf, during the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Kazakhstan late last year. Under Iran’s strict religious edicts, Muslim women are required to wear the hijab in public at all times. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued against her.

She fled to Spain early this year and has been living there ever since. The 26-year old grandmaster was accompanied by her husband, Ardeshir Ahmadi, a film director, and their son Sam, who is only 10 months old. The family obtained residency by investing at least half a million Euros in property in what is referred to as a “golden visa” scheme.

In a statement, Spain’s Justice Minister Pilar Llop said that Khadem was granted Spanish citizenship in view of her “exceptional circumstances.” Khadem also previously met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and played a game of chess with him.

Since the competition in Kazakhstan, Khadem, along with her family and relatives in Iran, have been subjected to threats.

According to Khadem, she did not wear her hijab at the competition as part of her protest against the continued oppression perpetuated by the religious authorities in Iran. Iran’s leadership, which is largely composed of clerics, has been criticized by the international community following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in September last year. Amini died while under the custody of Iran’s morality police (called the Guidance Patrols, or Gasht-e Ershad), who arrested her over the charge of an “improper” wearing of the hijab. She was allegedly subjected to torture, which resulted in her death.

Besides the hijab, women are also required to wear loose clothing so as to disguise their figures. But Amini’s death has inspired many to defy the Iranian government’s strict dress codes, and many women have quietly voiced their protests by forgoing the use of the hijab.

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