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Iranian Rock Climber Returns Home After Competing Without Hijab

Written by on October 19, 2022

Elnaz Rekabi, who competed in the Asian rock climbing championships in South Korea without the hijab required of Iranian female athletes, arrived in Tehran to a throng of supporters and fans on Wednesday morning, amid concerns that she would be arrested and banned from leaving.

As soon as Rekabi arrived in Iran, she appeared in front of the cameras of two government news agencies, telling them that competing without a hijab “was completely accidental.”

“Because I was busy putting on my shoes and my gear, it caused me to forget to put on my hijab and then I went to compete,” she said.

In response to another question about the reactions to her appearance in the competitions without a hijab, Rekabi said: “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.”

After Sunday’s competition, it was reported that Rekabi’s friends had not been able to contact her and there were concerns for her safety.

Rekabi competing without a hijab came amid protests in Iran that have persisted since the death in police custody last month of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by Iran’s morality police for violating the country’s dress code.

Rekabi finished fourth in Sunday’s competition. In 2021, she won the bronze medal in the women’s combined event at the World Rock Climbing Championships.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing said in a statement Tuesday that it was in contact with Rekabi and was “trying to establish the facts.” The federation also said that it will continue to monitor Rekabi’s condition upon her arrival in Iran.

“Athletes’ safety is paramount for us and we support any efforts to keep a valued member of our community safe in this situation,” the federation said.

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