Loved ones fear fate of Iranian climber who competed in Seoul without hijab

An Iranian rock climber, who competed in Seoul without a hijab, has loved ones worried as she hasn’t been seen since the competition. According to The Guardian, friends have been unable to contact Elnaz Rekabi since she supposedly returned home with the rest of the team on Sunday. Rekabi took part in the Asian Championships without wearing a hijab, which is against Iran’s strict law that mandates all women wear a head covering.

The BBC quoted “well-informed sources” as saying Rekabi’s mobile phone and passport had been confiscated before she boarded a flight back to Tehran. The news channel presenter also noted that there were concerns about her safety. Iran Wire, a small anti-regime website then quoted another source that said the rock climber would be flown back to Tehran a day earlier than scheduled to avoid protests at an international airport.

Despite the rumours and fears, the Iranian embassy in Seoul said it “strongly denies all the fake, false news and disinformation” about the climber. While she hadn’t been heard from since the South Korea event, her Instagram account published a story on Tuesday with an apology. However, many are sceptical that it was her posting the story.

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

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The latest news of Rekabi’s whereabouts has only added fuel to the fire surrounding Iran’s treatment of women. Just last month, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s arrest over not wearing a hijab properly, and subsequent death, sparked deadly protests. Such treatment of women by the country’s morality police has ignited protests that have seen women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs while chanting freedom slogans.

Rekabi is believed to be only the second Iranian female athlete to compete while openly defying the law requiring women to wear hijabs. She explained that the hot temperatures when competing made it difficult to keep the headscarf intact.

“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 respect the hijab and is compatible with practising the sport of climbing.”

Since Rekabi allegedly arrived back in Tehran, there are no reports on her whereabouts except the questionable Instagram post.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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