The Iranian chess player who competed without a veil: “It just didn’t feel right”

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“It just didn’t feel right”. Sara Khadem, Iranian chess player, often took off the veil at international competitions, when the cameras didn’t film her, last December in Kazakhstan she decided that removing the veil had to be a public thing, she couldn’t go on pretending. So she told the Briton Guardian the Iranian player who now lives in Spain.

The Kazakh tournament was the turning point. Sara Khadim has decided not to wear the veil which is mandatory for women in Iran and she has communicated this to her husband, the director Ardeshir Ahmadi, who was in the past for three months in the Evin political prison. The support of her husband was fundamental for the choice. Their path was facilitated by her status as an elite athlete and a property they owned in the country. They now live here with their 11 month old son.

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“I’ve heard rumors that we did this to get asylum or something so we could move to Spain,” Khadim said. Many members of Iranian entertainment and sports have fled the country in recent years. Sara Khadim’s move made more headlines as it came during the period of demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish girl, arrested for an alleged violation of wearing the veil and died following beatings by the police. Almost 20,000 people have been arrested since September according to the Human Rights Activists group. More than 500 protesters would be dead. There have been 4 executions and another 20 people sentenced to death are waiting to be hanged.

The couple tried to separate the personal choice of moving to a still undisclosed location from the political question. The Iranian chess player told al Guardian that the choice not to wear the veil was hers and should not fall on her family. “What he did is not considered political in most countries, but, in Iran, everything is political.” Sara Khadim wants to represent Iran in international tournaments and she hopes to return to her homeland in the future. “The decision I made to Almaty it was a personal decision. So when I go back to Iran I will answer whoever asks me what I felt».

More stories from Vanity Fair that might interest you:
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– Let’s not draw a veil: this is who is behind the protests in Iran

– Taraneh Ahmadi’s viral video: “I too was arrested for wearing a bad hijab”

– «No, it is not easy being a woman in Iran»

Source: Vanity Fair

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