US senator speaks out in support of Iranian chess player as protests continue

Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praises protesters for standing up for human rights

Iranian chess player Sarasadat Khademalsharieh arrived in Spain on Tuesday after being reportedly warned not to return to Iran. EPA
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An influential US senator has spoken out in support of an Iranian chess player who competed without a hijab at an international tournament in Kazakhstan.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who heads the chamber's Foreign Relations Committee, said Iranians face an almost impossible choice when it comes to competing overseas for their country.

“[Sarasadat] Khademalsharieh and others like her must choose between standing up for fundamental #human rights and returning to their country,” Mr Menendez tweeted from the committee's Twitter account on Sunday.

“The Iranian regime offers few choices to those who will not submit to its oppression.”

Khademalsharieh arrived in Spain on Tuesday after reportedly receiving warnings not to return to Iran.

Iran has been gripped by daily anti-government protests since September of last year, when a young woman died in police custody after she was detained for not wearing a head covering in accordance with the country's strict dress code.

The protest movement has presented the clerical leadership with its biggest challenge since the 1979 revolution.

Protesters have been chanting “woman, life, freedom”, calling not only for reform, but also for the toppling of the entire regime.

On Monday, Iran sentenced two teenagers to be hanged for taking part in the protests. Two men have already been executed for their role in the demonstrations.

The crackdown has led to about 14,000 people being detained and caused the deaths of 476 people, according to Norway-based group Iran Human Rights. At least 100 detainees are at risk of execution, the organisation said.

Updated: January 03, 2023, 5:00 PM