Iran chess star fleeing to Spain after playing without hijab

An Iranian chess player is moving to Spain while fearing for her life after playing in a tournament without a hijab, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.

During the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Kazakhstan earlier this week, Sara Khadem appeared without a hijab, in an apparent show of support for women and anti-regime protesters in her home country.

However, sources close to the player said the 25-year-old has decided to move to Spain with her husband and young child following the events as a result of safety fears.

A source said: “She is aware that her life would be in danger if she returned to Iran because she has been shown playing without a head covering in several photographs.”

Khadem has previously espoused anti-regime views, including defending a fellow Iranian chess player who was forced to forfeit against Israeli opponents.

Iran has long sought to punish outspoken athletes and celebrities, with the home of professional climber Elnaz Rekabi being destroyed by authorities after the sportswoman appeared in a tournament without a hijab.