Iranian rock climber gets hero’s welcome after competing at world championship without her hijab

  • Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi was greeted by her family and a sea of fans after arriving in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday.
  • Many people expressed concern over Rekabi’s safety after she competed at this year’s International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Asian Championships in Seoul on Sunday without wearing her hijab.
  • “The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab that I should have had, and I went to the wall and ascended," Rekabi, 33, told reporters.
  • Under Iranian law, women caught without their hijabs in public may face punishments such as jail time, flogging or fines.
  • An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson told Reuters that the IOC has already spoken with Iran's National Olympic Committee (NOC) and can reassure that Rekabi will not be punished for not wearing her hijab while competing over the weekend.

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi received a warm welcome home after causing concern while representing Iran at a rock climbing competition in Seoul last weekend.

Rekabi, 33, left South Korea for Tehran, Iran, on early Tuesday. The following day, she arrived in her home country, where she was greeted by a sea of fans cheering her return.

Concerns regarding the athlete’s safety grew after she competed at this year’s International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Asian Championships on Sunday without a hijab on. Women who appear in public without a hijab on are considered to be violating an Iranian law that took effect in 1983.

Reports claiming that Rekabi, who finished fourth in the recent competition, had gone missing were widely circulated by Tuesday. Her passport and mobile phone were taken from her after she was asked to go to the Iranian Embassy, according to BBC Persian, citing an anonymous source.

Additionally, Rekabi’s friends told the BBC they could not reach the athlete at the time.

Many social media users expressed their concerns regarding Rekabi’s safety as Iran is currently experiencing civil unrest following the death of a woman in police custody. The woman was reportedly arrested for her “improper” hijab.

Two Iranian filmmakers have recently been arrested, and celebrities such as Iranian football star Ali Daei and Iranian actor Hamid Farrokhnejad were reportedly interrogated by the authorities for supporting the ongoing anti-government protests.

Speaking to Iranian reporters upon landing in Tehran, Rekabi said she is in “full health.” She also apologized to “the people of Iran for the turbulence and worry” that she “created.”

The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab that I should have had, and I went to the wall and ascended,” Rekabi continued.

She was greeted by her family upon her return to Iran. She told reporters, “I came back to Iran with peace of mind although I had a lot of tension and stress. But so far, thank god nothing has happened.”

Her brother, Davoud Rekabi, spoke with Tasnim News Agency, the Iranian government’s semi-official news channel, and claimed people “took advantage of the situation. My sister is a child of Iran, and she will always play wearing the national team’s uniform.”

Although he gave a statement about how his sister has been loyal to Iran, some are skeptical about his words and wonder if he was pressured to make those comments after reportedly being arrested recently.

Rekabi went on to explain via Instagram Stories on Tuesday that her hijab was removed unintentionally, writing, “Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off.”

She denied that she was unreachable for 48 hours and told reporters that she and her team returned to their home country as scheduled.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson told Reuters that the IOC has already spoken with Iran’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) and can assure that Rekabi will not be punished for not wearing her hijab while competing over the weekend.

A joint meeting took place today between the IOC, the (international climbing federation) IFSC and the Iranian NOC, during which the IOC and the IFSC received clear assurances that Ms Rekabi will not suffer any consequences and will continue to train and compete,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Under Iranian law, women caught without their hijabs in public may face punishments such as jail time, flogging or fines. Women who wear their hijabs in public must make sure their head coverings are not too colorful or tightly fitted to avoid being penalized, according to Amnesty International.

 

Featured Image via @IRNA_1313

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