What was your childhood like in Iran?
My father was a computer engineer and my mother was a housewife. My father had studied in Germany so we were a family open to the world and happy.
Aren't you afraid that your parents will suffer reprisals for your escape?
You can't live with paranoia. It would be a non-living. So I worry about them, but I don't obsess.
Was your father a good chess player?
He doesn't know how to play chess.
How did you learn?
I had learning difficulties as a child in school. It was difficult for me to concentrate.
Well today she is the Spanish chess champion and the 15th best player in the world.
But as a child I made stupid mistakes due to lack of concentration, that's why my mother spoke to another mother who had her son learning chess and he was doing very well in school and they made me play with him when I was 7 years old.
I see you liked it.
I was passionate about it. If my teacher gave me two pages of chess problems, I asked for four. And I started winning tournaments very quickly until the final of the national children's championship and I was champion of Iran.
But what made me really famous in my country was winning the Asian championship. Meanwhile, he got good grades.
Did they recognize you on the street?
Iran doesn't win many sports championships in the world...
No the truth.
...So when we win one people really celebrate it, that's why I became really popular very quickly and I considered becoming a professional player.
As a teenager, did you go to private parties in Tehran? They say they are great.
In Iran anything is possible as long as you don't do it publicly. But sometimes a neighbor calls the moral police...And you have problems. Before, at the age of 12, I won my first world championship and continued in school until high school, when I decided to become a professional chess player.
Is drinking a beer there a crime?
And if you are a girl and you do not wear the veil and on top of that you are with boys, it becomes a crime that is punished severely.
Did you resign yourself or infringe?
For me it was different, because I was lucky enough to travel around the world with the Iranian chess team.
Is it very difficult for the authorities to let an Iranian leave the country?
Getting a visa is very difficult. I was extremely lucky to play around the world and have an open family.
Why isn't Iran becoming more flexible like other totalitarian regimes?
When the revolution broke out, those who wanted it to be the way it is won. But it was not a particularly religious country before. It is a complex issue that we cannot resolve now.
Will the dictatorial regime last?
It is obvious that the majority of Iranians are not happy with the current situation...
Until one day you said enough in a championship... And you took off your veil!
Before I decided, I had already traveled a lot with the boys and girls from the team, although a police officer always watched us and sent reports if we took off our veil or if we were publicly overindulgent in something...
Were they punished?
The girls were punished more: not wearing the veil was added to their faults. We learned to always have a double behavior: secret and public.
When did you meet your husband?
I was 19 and we got married at 21. As he was an Iranian filmmaker educated in Canada, he also had an open mind and we traveled for six months and spent another six in Iran until I made a statement in favor of my teammate, Alireza. Firouzja, who had fled to France, one of the best players in the world...
Did it cost you dearly to be supportive of him?
They took away my passport temporarily; I left the Iranian team; the pandemic arrived; then I was a mother; and the Almaty championship arrived, to which we were all expectant due to the anti-headscarf revolt in Iran: were you in favor – we asked – or not? Not speaking out was accepting the veil.
What did you do?
I wrote against the veil on the networks and the police called me. And there came a day when I told myself that with the veil it wasn't me. That woman I saw in photos with a veil or in the mirror was not me. And at the Almaty Tournament, while protests were taking place in Iran, I took it off.
And did you know that I wouldn't return to Iran?
I knew it, that's why I went into exile in Spain and last July I stopped being an exile and became Spanish.