Fears for Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi after she competed in Seoul without a hijab. Source: The Guardian

Posted by

Fears for Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi after she competed in Seoul without a hijab

Friends have been unable to contact athlete since Sunday, while embassy says she has returned home with rest of teamFears for Iranian rock climber after she competed in Seoul without wearing a hijab – video

Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Moones Mansoubi in SydneyTue 18 Oct 2022 10.52 BSTFirst published on Tue 18 Oct 2022 06.28 BST

There are growing fears for the wellbeing of an Iranian climber who competed in an international tournament without a hijab in South Korea after friends told the BBC’s Persian service that they have been unable to contact her since Sunday.

  • The BBC also quoted “well-informed sources” as saying Elnaz Rekabi’s passport and mobile phone had been confiscated before she boarded a plane back to Tehran on Tuesday.

The BBC World Service presenter Rana Rahimpour tweeted that “there are concerns about her safety”.

Iran’s youthful protests stoke uncertainty among political elite

  • The online news site Iran Wire reported Rekabi had been taken to the Iranian embassy in Seoul to ensure she could be flown home with minimal scrutiny.

Iran Wire, a small anti-regime website, quoted a source as saying that Rekabi would be flown back to Tehran on Tuesday – one day earlier than scheduled – to deter possible protests at Imam Khomeini international airport.

The Guardian was not able to confirm the reports.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the Iranian embassy in Seoul said it “strongly denies all the fake, false news and disinformation” about Rekabi.

Rekabi was competing in the Asian Championships. Its organisers, the International Federation of Sport Climbing, have been contacted for comment.

Nothing had been heard since the event from Rekabi until a story was published on Tuesday morning on her Instagram account, where she has more than 200,000 followers.

“I firstly apologise for all the concerns I have caused,” the statement said. Due to the timing and sudden call to begin the climb “my hijab unintentionally became problematic”, it said. “I am currently on my way back to Iran alongside the team based on the pre-scheduled timetable,” it added.

The circumstances under which the statement emerged were not clear.

Iran has been gripped by deadly protests in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody last month. The 22-year-old had been detained by the country’s “morality police” for not wearing a hijab properly.

Some female protesters have burned their hijabs and cut off their hair, while crowds have chanted “zan, zendegi, azadi” (“woman, life, freedom”).

Last year, Rekabi became the first Iranian woman to win a medal at the sport climbing world championships. She finished fourth at last weekend’s event in South Korea. A video clip showed her scaling a wall with her hair tied back in a ponytail during the event.

Rekabi, who has posted photos on Instagram of herself training while wearing a hijab, is also believed to be only the second Iranian female athlete to compete while openly defying Iran’s strict law requiring women to wear the Islamic head covering.

In 2019, the boxer Sadaf Khadem became the first Iranian woman since the Islamic revolution to win a fight overseas. Khadem opted to remain in France after the bout, after Iranian authorities reportedly issued a warrant for her arrest because she had boxed bareheaded and in shorts.

In a 2016 interview with France-based Euronews, Rekabi acknowledged that wearing a hijab while climbing could pose additional physical challenges.

“At the beginning it was a little bizarre for the other athletes, who were curious about a girl wearing a scarf on her head and an outfit that covered the arms and legs whilst competing inside in such a hot temperature,” she said.

“For sure when it’s hot the hijab becomes a problem. During competition your body needs to evacuate the heat. But we have tried to create an outfit ourselves that respects the hijab and is compatible with practising the sport of climbing.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s