Sara Khadem - A portrait in the Spanish Elle

by André Schulz
3/7/2023 – After Sara Khadem, one of Iran's top women players, played without headscarf at the World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships 2022, she left Iran with her family for fear of reprisals and now lives in Spain. The Spanish magazine Elle now published a portrait of Sara Khadem and made some chic fashion photos with her. | Photo: Elle

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In its latest issue, the Spanish edition of the fashion and women's magazine Elle published a portrait of Sara Khadem, who left her native Iran with her family and now lives in Spain.

At the World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships in Almaty last December, the top Iranian player, ranked 17th in the world, decided to play without headscarf in protest against the oppression of her country's people, especially women, by the ruling mullahs. Playing without a headscarf in public is forbidden in Iran and that rule also applies to Iranian citizens outside Iran.

Under Islamic law, which was introduced in Iran after the mullahs came to power in 1979, Article 638 of the Fifth Book of the Penal Code states that any act considered "offensive" to public morals is punishable by imprisonment of between 10 days and 2 months or 74 lashes. Women who appear in public without a headscarf are punished with between 10 days and 2 months in prison or a fine. If Sara Khadem were to travel to Iran now, she would be arrested.

In an interview with El Pais, Sara Khadem said she would continue to compete for her country in chess tournaments, but did not want to live there.

The Spanish edition of Elle has published a portrait of Sara Khadem, in which the 26-year-old tells how her chess career came about. She started playing chess at the age of eight, taught by a classmate. She soon showed particular talent and was taught by her first coach, Khosro Harandi, and later by Dutch grandmaster Robin van Kampen. In 2008, Sara Khadem won the Asian U12 Girls Championship and the following year she became the U12 Girls World Champion. At the age of 16 she was named Women's Grandmaster (WGM) in 2013. In 2014, Sara Khadem was runner-up at the U20 Girls World Championships. In 2018 she was also runner-up in rapid chess and blitz chess.

The portrait also included some fashion shots, in which the Iranian grandmaster makes a good impression. Is there any hint of a second career here?


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.