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‘I did what I could, I don’t regret it’: Iranian chess player Sara Khadem

Salamanca, Spain, Apr 27 (EFE).- Iranian chess player Sara Khadem says she doesn’t regret leaving Iran in a bid to avoid reprisals after participating in the December 2022 World Cup in Kazakhstan without a headscarf.

The 25-year-old grandmaster left the country in the wake of protests after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini who was arrested in September last year for not wearing her veil correctly.

“Due to the situation in the country, many people are doing everything they can. I did what I could, so I don’t regret it, because it was something I really wanted to do,” Khadem tells Efe.

She cannot return to Iran, so she has settled with her family “in southern Spain”, where “everything is very good,” she adds.

“It is one of the great chess centers in Europe, there are many tournaments throughout the year, which means that when you want to play, you can play,” she tells Efe in Salamanca, where she is currently competing.

Khadem’s participation has sparked much interest at this year’s Magistral de Salamanca, which started on Tuesday and runs until April 29.

Khadem lost her first two games on Wednesday, against Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina and Russia’s Kirill Alekseenko who also lives abroad.

“It’s a very good tournament, there are many great players and the fact that we can play men against women, in equal numbers, makes it interesting,” the Iranian adds.

The Salamanca chess festival claims to be one of the few in the world that has a focus on gender equality. Eight top chess players compete, four men and four women.

Only 16.1% of chess players competing in global tournaments are women, according to data from the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

“There are many more men than women, so everything that is being done to attract women to chess is very interesting,” Khadem says.

Netflix blockbuster The Queen’s Gambit “has played an important role” in promoting the sport among women, which the Iranian chess player recommends “as a hobby, it is a very healthy hobby.”

Khadem says she takes her new-found status as a role model among women and girls “with great responsibility.” EFE


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