“I miss my family, but I don’t regret my decision. I continue to represent Iran, I continue to be Iranian and Iranians see me that way.” The words, yes BBC, is by Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, an Iranian chess player who was forced to flee her country. Or Sara Khadem, as she prefers to be called now.
Sara, who does not want to be seen as an activist, found herself in the spotlight when she volunteered at an international tournament in Kazakhstan in December without hijab to cover his head.
At the time, he was thought to have done so in solidarity with the protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, who surrendered to police custody after being arrested for misusing his hijab.
But Sarah has a simpler explanation for the decision – and not quite as politicized. “Honestly, I wasn’t using it anymore hijab, I only put it on camera because it represented Iran. But this time I didn’t feel good that I wasn’t myself and I decided not to do it again”, he explained, a few days ago, in the country.
Iran issued an arrest warrant for the chess player as soon as she entered the country – so she did not enter. He lives in Spain, in an unknown city, because the Iranian fears reprisals from more hostile factions in the Iranian community, despite being so far from Iran.
According BBCSarah was able to stay in Spain on a visa gold and is in the Iberian Peninsula with her husband and ten-month-old son. Despite her fears, she says she is happy and relatively calm in Spain, mainly because she considers it a good country for her son, Sam.
“For me, freedom is the ability to be yourself. It does not mean that everyone can do what they want, but to have this right without harming others is an essential need in life,” he reflected in the Spanish newspaper.
Enter the women’s top 10
On a sporting level, Sara Khadem, a fan of Garry Kasparov, Judit Polgár and Magnus Carlsen, is not one of the most prominent players on the circuit. Jorge Guimarães, PÚBLICO’s chess expert, warns that the Iranian does not have top results on the main stages.
However, in ranking exclusively female, the player continues in 17th place and the goal, she guarantees, is to enter the top 10 soon. She achieved some interesting results in international events.
“I want to continue playing under the Iranian flag. And enter the top 10. I want to be too streamer and play live online. I had this plan for a few years, but I didn’t want to do it in Iran, with the hijab“, explained the country.
But the lack of sporting exposure on the main chess stages does not prevent the player from being, at present, another important figure in the country’s sport.
“These [Irão] they think we should stay home and be domestic. But some women are fighting to change that and I think they will succeed,” says Sara Khadem. And you can say it well.
Sadaf Khadem, a boxer, is in exile in France. Elnaz Rekabi, climbing athlete, emerged without hijab in an important event – he did it at the World Cup, in October – as had already happened with his fellow chess player Dorsa Derakhshani, in 2017, in a match in Gibraltar. Both with manifestations similar to those of Sara Khadem, who is not the first to say “enough is enough.”
But the goal of the chess player is not to be a pioneer. Just be one more. Because there are already many.