Fears grow for female Iranian rock climber who competed without wearing hijab

18 October 2022, 14:48 | Updated: 19 October 2022, 11:41

Elnaz Rekabi
Elnaz Rekabi. Picture: Picture live feed
Fran Way

By Fran Way

Fears have been mounting for a female Iranian rock climber who competed in South Korea without wearing a hijab.

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, competed at Seoul tournament on Sunday without her nation’s mandatory headscarf.

A source told Iran Wire that Rekabi took the decision not to wear the covering in solidarity with the now five-week-long protests sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.

A protester with the Iranian flag painted on her face raises...
A protester with the Iranian flag painted on her face raises... Picture: Getty

This afternoon Rekabi’s Instagram account posted: “I apologise about what I did to make you worry.”

The post also claimed that she was rushed at the competition and described her as ‘unintentionally’ not wearing the hijab.

The BBC’s Persian Service, which has extensive contracts within Iran despite being banned from operating there, quoted an unnamed ‘informed source’ who described Iranian officials as seizing both Rekabi’s mobile phone and passport.

BBC Persian also said she had initially been scheduled to return from the competition on Wednesday but her flight had apparently been moved unexpectedly.

In a Tweet, the Iranian Embassy in Seoul denied ‘all the fake, false news and disinformation’ regarding Rekabi’s departure on Tuesday.

But instead of posting a photo of her from the Seoul competition, it posted an image of her wearing a headscarf a previous competition in Moscow where she took home a bronze medal.

Rekabi has finished on the podium three times in the Asian Championships, taking home one silver and two bronze medals.

According to the organisers of the event, the Seoul-based Korea Alpine Federation, Rekabi wore a headscarf during her initial appearances at the one-week climbing event.

Elnaz Rekabi
Elnaz Rekabi. Picture: Aflo Co. Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo

On Sunday she didn’t put the headscarf on, they said, but they were not officially aware she was competing without it until they were asked to look into the case.

They said they do not have rules on requiring female athletes to wear a headscarf however Iranian women competing abroad under the Iranian flag must always wear one.