Iranian Athlete Feared Missing, Allegedly Posts 'Apology' For Not Wearing Hijab

Elnaz Rekabi has become the second Iranian athlete to shun the Iranian regime's hijab mandate.

3 min read

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi, who competed at an international event in Seoul without a hijab, on Tuesday, 18 October, allegedly "apologised" for the act – calling it "unintentional."

Rekabi had defied the Islamic Republic's rules in the Asian Climbing Competitions finals held in South Korea on Sunday, 16 October, where she performed without a hijab.

BBC Persian reported that the athlete could not be contacted by her friends after Sunday night, and her phone was taken from her, fuelling concerns about her safety.


What Has Happened So Far?

An Instagram story, allegedly posted by Rekabi on her personal account on Tuesday, apologised for the athlete not wearing a hijab while performing and the "improper timing" of her actions. The post said that she was called on unexpectedly during the competition, and unintentionally forgot her hijab.

It further stated that she was on her way to Iran as per the "pre-scheduled plan." The story did not carry a signature from the rock climber.

Earlier on Tuesday, local media reports had said that Rekabi will be directly sent to the Evin prison upon reaching the Tehran airport. Further, a "well-informed sources" indicated to the BBC that Rekabi's passport and mobile phone were taken from her.

The Iran embassy in Seoul, however, denied the "fake, false news" regarding Rekabi, and maintained that she departed from Seoul on Tuesday morning along with other members of her team.


Who Is Elnaz Rekabi?

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, is hailed as the first woman from Iran to win a medal at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships in 2021, where she won bronze.

While she finished fourth in last the Combined Boulder and Lead final in Seoul this year, her performance was broadcast across the world and was appreciated widely for its historic defiance of the hijab diktat.

She is the second athlete from Iran to shun the mandatory hijab rule imposed by the nation's regime since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Before Rekabi, boxer Sadaf Khadem had competed without a headscarf in an international match in France in 2019. Khadem remains in France following her subsequent exile from Iran and the issuance of an arrest warrant against her. 


'Hijab Becomes a Problem When It's Hot': Rekabi's Old Interview

In an interview with Euronews in 2016, Elnaz Rekabi had spoken about the difficulty of practising her sport while donning a hijab.

"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 had shared.

"For sure, when it's hot, the hijab becomes a problem. During the 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 practicing the sport of climbing."
Elnaz Rekabi to Euronews in 2016

Rekabi's daring act of assertion in Seoul against the Iranian administration's laws for women comes amid large-scale protests in the country in recent weeks.

At least 215 people have died in the demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, as per Iran Human Rights. Amini is believed to have died in custody on 16 September after she was tortured by the morality police for breaching the dress code.

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Topics:  Iran   Hijab   Iran Hijab Protests 

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