Iranian Champion Banned For Refusing Head Scarf Gets A New Start At SLU

By Erin Heffernan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dorsa Derakhshani is the 19-year-old Iranian chess champion who was banned from competing in the name of her home country after she refused to wear a head scarf. She now calls St. Louis home where she is a freshman at SLU. Erin Herffernan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares her story.


Dorsa Derakhshani has played many roles: child prodigy, television performer, one of the top young female chess players in the world and, most recently, a St. Louis University freshman.

But Derakhshani never asked for her most famous one: international newsmaker.

The 19-year-old Iranian chess champion was banned from competing in the name of her home country in February after she refused to wear a head scarf at an international competition. Iranian law requires women to wear head scarves in public.

Her story spread, quickly becoming a conduit in media outlets all over the world for the debate over Iran’s laws controlling what women wear.

But sitting on campus at SLU, where she started as a student this fall, Derakhshani said she doesn’t focus on the ban. Instead she pulls all-nighters to fit in her schoolwork and chess team practice.

“It shouldn’t have become such a big deal,” she said in an interview Wednesday, her head uncovered and long braids hanging down her back. “What I think is right to do, I do it. I try to keep my conscience clear and my mind at peace. I don’t know why some people have enough free time to worry about what I wear.”

A child prodigy
Derakhshani was born in Tehran in 1998 and learned to read by the time she was 2.
As a toddler, she could also sing and dance with skill beyond her years and soon got noticed by an Iranian TV producer, she said.

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