Sara Khadem, an Iranian chess player, received a “warning not to return to Iran” after competing at the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week without wearing a headscarf, according to The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).
The 25-year-old athlete left Iran on Tuesday for Spain after receiving what a person close to her claimed were warnings not to go back due to her failure to wear the hijab, which is required according to Iran’s stringent dress laws.
According to the source, Khadem received several phone calls after the competition in which some people advised her not to go home. SMH reported this information.
Without going into greater detail, the insider also claimed that threats had been made against Khadem’s parents and relatives in Iran.
The phone calls prompted the decision to provide security, and with the help of the Kazakh police, four bodyguards were placed outside Khadem’s hotel room, the source claimed.
Khadem is the latest athlete to take the field without a hijab since the anti-government demonstrations got underway in September.
The chess player was born in 1997, and the International Chess Federation places him as the number 10 active player in Iran at the moment (804th overall).
Mahsa Amini, 22, passed away after being arrested by the police, which led to demonstrations in Iran.
According to SMH, women have taken a leading role in the protests, taking off and in some cases burning their headscarves, and demonstrators have found encouragement in what they perceive as positive displays of support from both Iranian males and females.
Earlier in October, Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi raced in South Korea without the obligatory hijab, later stating that it had fallen off by accident. Whether Rekabi was forced to say what she did is unclear, though.
The deputy sports minister of Iran, Maryam Kazemipour, reportedly stated in a statement earlier that athletes who disobeyed Islamic norms afterwards “regretted” their actions and were searching for an opportunity to make up for their error.”