Iranian Chess Player Defies Islamic Dress Code and Moves to Spain

Jan, 2023

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

rank (verb)


to have or be placed in a position or class in an order of skill level or achievement

Sugar Ray Robinson is ranked as one of the greatest boxers of all time.


defect (verb)


to leave your country to join another because you disagree with those in control

Edward Snowden was a former technology consultant for the CIA in the United States who defected to Russia in 2013.


mandatory (adjective)


required as a rule by law or authority

It is mandatory to pay taxes on what you earn in most countries.


strict (adjective)


strong and exact, or severe, particularly with regard to rules

My teachers were very strict in school.


inspire (verb)


to make someone have a particular strong desire, feeling or reaction

When I saw a play at the theatre for the first time, it inspired me to become an actor.


rebellion (noun)


action by a group or individiual against authority or rules

Children often show signs of rebellion during their teenage years as they become more independent.


attire (noun)


the clothing you wear, particularly for a specific occasion

Oh dear! That attire is not going to be suitable for this event.

Iranian Chess Player Defies Islamic Dress Code and Moves to Spain

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh is an Iranian chess player who is better known as Sara Khadem. She is 25-years old and is ranked 9th in Iran and 771st in the world. However, she defected from Iran to Spain with her family in 2023 after she competed in a chess competition without wearing a hijab, which is a mandatory item of dress for all Iranian women.

A hijab is a traditional headscarf that all women in Iran must wear in public due to the country’s strict Islamic dress codes. According to Sky News, after Khadem competed in the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in December 2022 without her hijab, she was warned not to return to her country.

When she arrived in Spain in January 2023, she met with the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez. The Spanish media showed pictures of the meeting where Khadem was wearing a black suit and no hijab. She is seen chatting with Sanchez for a while before they play a friendly game of chess.

After their meeting, Sanchez posted on his Twitter account – “How much I have learned today from a woman who inspires me.” He added, “All my support to women athletes. Your example contributes to a better world.”

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Khadem said she only wore the headscarf at tournaments when there were cameras. She said that “With the hijab, I’m not me, I don’t feel good, and so I wanted to put an end to that situation” so she decided not to wear it anymore.

Khadem is one of a number of Iranian sportswomen who have appeared in public without a headscarf. In October 2022, climber Elnaz Rekabi competed in South Korea without a headscarf. However, after she returned to Iran, she apologised, claiming that her headscarf had fallen off. The archer Parmida Ghasemi also appeared to let her hijab fall off at an awards show in Tehran.

These acts of rebellion have come after an Iranian-Kurdish woman called Mahsa Amini died in Iran in September 2022 after being arrested by the ‘morality police’ for wearing “inappropriate attire”. Her death led to demonstrations in the country and civil unrest.

El País have been told that Khadem, who is married to the film director Ardeshir Ahmadi, will remain in Spain with her husband and child. They do not plan to return to Iran.



1. Sara Khadam is one of the top 10 chess players in the world.


2. Choose the correct answer: Why do Iranian women have to wear a hijab?

a. Because they are all Muslim.

b. Because it is the rule in Iran.

c. To hide their face in public.

3. Choose the correct answer: When Khadem met the Spanish Prime minister…

a. he wore a black suit and she didn’t wear a hijab.

b. she wore a hijab and a black suit.

c. she didn’t wear a hijab, but she wore a black suit.

4. Sara Khadem has never worn a hijab when she has competed outside of Iran.


5. Parmida Ghasemi was punished because her hijab fell off during an awards ceremony in Tehran.


6. Why was Mahsa Amini arrested in Iran?



  • What are your thoughts about this article?
  • Have you ever had to follow a dress code? If so, explain the situation.
  • What do you consider inappropriate attire in a formal workplace?
  • Are there any types of clothes that you think are inappropriate to wear in public? If so, why?
  • What do you think would make you want to defect to another country?
  • What mandatory rules in your country do you think are unfair?
  • Have you ever rebelled against a rule? If so, explain the situation.
  • Do you, or have you ever, enjoyed playing chess? If so, what do you like about this game?
  • Do you play any other board games? If so, which ones?
  • Do you have any other comments about the topics in today’s lesson?