Elnaz Rekabi claims she mistakenly competed without a hijab
Elnaz Rekabi, Iranian rock climber who was deemed to be in danger after competing in an event without donning a hijab, has now claimed that her failure to do so was “inadvertent.”
Elnaz Rekabi, 33, who was in Seoul for the Asia Championship of the International Federation of Sport Climbing, did not wear the headscarf on Sunday as required by law for Iranian women. Her action was praised on social media, where it was interpreted that she was supporting the anti-hijab demonstrations that have been taking place in Iran for almost a month.
Rekabi left Seoul earlier than expected on Tuesday, which raised concerns about possible retaliation from the government of her country. Her friends and relatives were unable to reach her, according to BBC Persia, who also stated that her phone and passport may have been taken. Rekabi apologised for “creating fear” and clarified that she did not mean to do so in Persian language on Instagram story she published hours later.
Elnaz Rekabi: Who is She?
Rekabi is an accomplished climber who travelled to South Korea with Iran’s delegation of 11, which included eight athletes and three coaches, to compete in the Asia Championship. She first participated in the tournament while covering her head with a hijab, but on Sunday she was seen without one.
She placed fourth in the competition this year, but she has previously reached the podium three times, taking home one silver and two bronze medals.
Rekabi’s case explained
The hijab is a requirement for Iranian women athletes, even when they are competing in international competitions. Internet users shared videos and images of Rekabi competing without a hijab, and many praised her for her “courage” and support of the female protesters in her country. In the midst of this, she departed Seoul earlier than expected, which caused concern about claims that her family couldn’t get in touch with her. There were rumours that she would be detained when she arrived in Iran.
Tuesday saw a tweet from the Iranian embassy in South Korea that read, “Mrs. Elnaz Rekabi left Seoul for Iran on the morning of Tuesday, October 26, 1401 after the Asian Championship rock climbing competition was over. The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in South Korea strongly denies all fake news, lies and false information about Mrs. Elnaz Rekabi.”
According to Rekabi’s Instagram account, she was asked to participate before she was supposed to, therefore she was unable to wear the hijab. She said that she was “sorry” for all the anxiety she had caused and that she and her squad will arrive in Iran on time.
Iran’s questionable history with female athletes
Following controversy over their wearing of the hijab during athletic events, two Iranian women have lately been compelled to leave the country.
Al Jazeera claimed that in 2019, boxer Sadaf Khadem took part in a match in France without covering her hair. She was forced to remain there because of concern that she would be detained if she returned to Iran.
Iranian chess judge Shohreh Bayat applied for asylum in the UK in 2021, alleging she had received death threats after a photograph of her at the Women’s World Chess Championship in Shanghai appeared to show her without a hijab, according to the BBC. Although Bayat claimed to have been donning a hijab, it was not tightly wrapped.