"I love Paris and I am very happy in France!": An interview with Iranian and French WGM Mitra Hejazipour

by ChessBase
3/14/2024 – WGM Mitra Hejazipor was born on 19 February 1993 in Mashdad, Iran, and became Iranian Women's Champion in 2012. But she left her country because she did not want to wear the hijab, or headscarf, and went to France, where she became a French citizen in 2023. She also became the French women's champion that year. She recently played in the Werder Bremen Jubilee Tournament, which ended last week. After the tournament Mitra Hejazipor found time for an interview with Vera Jürgens and talked about her career, how chess helped her to see the world and whether she would like to become a professional chess player. | Photos: Werder Bremen

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The interview first appeared on the website of the SV Werder Bremen chess department on the occasion of the jubilee tournament. Reprinted with kind permission. 

An interview with Mitra Hejazipour

A great participant in our jubilee tournament: Iranian-French grandmaster Mitra Hejazipour in an interview with WGM Vera Jürgens.

Mitra, you are a very strong chess player and at least as strong a personality. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. My first question is: when and how did you learn to play chess?

I was very young, about 5 or 6 years old. I always liked to watch my father playing chess with our relatives. That's how I learnt. When my father noticed that I was regularly beating some family members, he took me to the chess club. At the age of 6 I won the national U10 championship. Shortly afterwards I was runner-up in the same age group. I was able to repeat this success the following year.

My chess was going well and so my father decided to support me and invest even more in my chess training.

What fascinates you most about chess?

I like the game itself, to a great part because of the strategic elements. You have to make a lot of decisions in a game, and that's what helps me in real life, because we have to make decisions all the time.

Another aspect: the many chess trips around the world have opened my eyes. I have experienced other cultures and a completely different way of life, and so over time I have realised that there are big differences between the basic rights of women in Iran and those in other countries. If you spent your whole life in Iran, you would never realise that life is very different elsewhere.

Rainer Knaak - Mitra Hejazipour

Would you like to play chess professionally?

In fact, I was a professional chess player until 2019. But at the World Championship in Moscow in 2019, I refused to wear the hijab and was dismissed from the Iranian national team at the beginning of 2020. During this time I gave many interviews in which I clearly showed my rejection of the Iranian government. I was no longer able to play actively and took a break from chess for almost four years.

In France, I had to start from scratch. I studied and graduated as an engineer. I then worked for two years in a software engineering company. I had also studied in Iran - I did my Masters in Sports Management there.

When I got the French nationality I started to play more chess again. It went really well for me and I won several tournaments. Then, in 2023, we finished third in the European Team Championship with the French women's national team. This was a great success for France and another milestone in my chess career.

Would I like to become a professional chess player? Basically yes, but a lot of factors have to be right, you need support and sponsorship. I would like to try to establish myself as a professional chess player. I would play actively until I felt a certain degree of tiredness and boredom. Then I would stop.

Do you ever fly to Iran? Do you see your family?

Since the incident at the World Cup in Moscow, I can no longer return to Iran. I am considered an opponent of the government there and if I were to return, I would be arrested immediately. I haven't seen my parents and relatives for four years. I really hope they visit me in France this year!

I hope so for you! Do you already feel at home in France, your adopted country?

Yes! I live in Paris and I love this city. It's fantastic, a big city where you never get bored. After four years, France feels like home. I love the country, the people, the language, the culture and I'm very happy in France.

Mitra, let's talk about the Werder jubilee tournament. How did you like it? What was good and what could have been better?

The conditions here were good, much better compared to other tournaments. For me personally, it was a very difficult and long tournament. The field was very strong, so I was happy with every draw. Now that the tournament is over, I feel exhausted. Do you have any suggestions for improvement? To be honest, I can't think of any.

Have you seen anything of Bremen?

Yes, we went for several walks in the city centre and I have to say: Bremen is a very beautiful, rather small city! Unfortunately I didn't have much time to do more.

So you would accept the next invitation to play chess in Bremen?

Of course! I'm very happy that four women played here. But next time I would try to finish in the top three. Generally speaking, women chess players who play in a strong men's tournament don't have such big ambitions. They just hope to win a game now and then. But I dream that things will be different and that a woman will reach a top position.

Mitra, thank you very much for the interview and all the best for your future!


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