Sara Khadem, a 25-year-old Iranian chess player who currently ranks 10th in the country, played without a hijab during a competition in Kazakhastan for two consecutive days on Dec. 27 and 28.
Iranian women athletes are required to wear a covering on their heads and modest clothes when representing Iran in international competitions.
Unprecedented protests are sweeping Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after she was detained by “morality” police over allegedly breaking the hijab law.
Out of fears for her and her family’s safety after she defied the dress code, Khadem – who is ranked 804 in the world – will not return home and will move to Spain, two sources told Spanish news outlet El Pais.
The sources added she will “never play for Iran again”.
It is uncertain Khadem has been granted political asylum or has already obtained Spanish residency.
Iranian athletes competing overseas have shown support to the antigovernment protests by removing their headscarves or refusing to sing the Iranian national anthem.
In October, an Iranian woman rock climber also competed without a headscarf at a tournament in South Korea.
Chess was banned in Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution by the Supreme leader of Iran at that time, Imam Khomeini.
Chess had been banned because it had originally been a gambling game.
Khomeini had called it a “diabolical game”, but lifted the ban on chess years later after being persuaded that the game was no longer consider gambling.
The current protests have been met with a violent crackdown from police, with at least 185 people dead, including teen girls Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, who have also become the faces of the movement, and thousands more injured and arrested as of Oct. 12.