Mitra Hejazipour excels in France despite Iranian chess team expulsion: “No regrets”


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Mitra Hejazipour, a chess champion, was expelled from the Iranian team in 2019 for not wearing the Islamic veil. She has since rebuilt her life in France, where she became a symbol of opposition to the Tehran regime after being nationalized in 2023. Three years before the tragic end of Mahsa Amini, who died in suspicious circumstances in September 2022 after being arrested for not wearing the veil correctly, Mitra had already challenged the Islamic Republic by refusing to wear the religious clothing to compete in Iran.

After being excluded from the Iranian team in Moscow for her refusal to cover her head and shoulders with a veil, Mitra decided not to return to her country and instead chose to go to Brest, France, where she already had a temporary permit to train with a local club. She was nationalized as French in 2023, thanks to a decree from the Government of Emmanuel Macron, and has since become one of the best chess players in France.

The process of rebuilding her sports career was painful, and her parents, who are Muslim and continue to live and work in Iran, were not supportive at first. However, they eventually understood her commitment to women’s freedom. Mitra’s decision to go into exile was influenced by her reflection on Islamic rules that seemed useless to her and witnessing a woman in Iran removing her veil in 2018.

In 2023, Mitra was invited to the Nobel ceremony in Oslo along with the teenage children of activist Narges Mohammadi, who is imprisoned in Iran. She believes that the attention brought to the repression of women in Iran by the Nobel Peace Prize given to Narges Mohammadi has helped bring the issue back to international attention.

Mitra is convinced that her compatriots want democracy, but she believes it is not possible with the current Islamic regime. She hopes for a contagion effect, where the courage shown by herself, Mahsa Amini, and Narges Mohammadi inspires other young women to stand up for their rights. She encourages others to show their courage, as it is contagious and will inspire others to follow suit.

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