Iranian climber blames ‘mistake’ for competing without hijab- Newshubweek

Iranian climber blames ‘mistake’ for competing without hijab
Written by Arindam

A female Iranian climber who took part in an international competition in Seoul without wearing a headscarf — widely seen as a show of support for protests in Iran — said there had been a “mistake”, fuelling suspicions she had come under pressure from the Islamic state.

After fears that the athlete had gone missing, Elnaz Rekabi posted a statement on Instagram on Tuesday apologising for the “concerns I have created”.

“I have to say that because of the sensitivities during the final matches of Asian Sport Climbing Championships in South Korea and because of an unpredictable call on me to climb the [bouldering] wall, my clothing had a problem by mistake. I’m now heading back to Iran with the rest of the team according to our pre-planned timetable,” she wrote.

Rekabi was the first Iranian woman to win a bronze medal at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships, claiming the bronze in 2021. She ranked fourth in the Seoul competition.

BBC Persian had reported that friends of the 33-year-old athlete had been unable to contact her since Sunday.

Rekabi’s brother told the Tasnim News Agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, his sister had not violated the Islamic dress code because she was wearing a black headband when she competed.

“My sister is coming back to Iran because she is a child of Iran and loves this land,” Davoud Rekabi said. “We shall have a press conference after she arrives when she can explain more about what had happened.”

Iranian authorities have blamed celebrities from Iran’s sports and film world for fanning the nationwide protests that have swept the country since a 22-year-old Kurdish woman died in the custody of the morality police.

Mahsa Amini was arrested last month for allegedly failing to fully observe the hijab. Since her death on September 16, at least 41 people involved in the protests have died, according to state television. Amnesty International has put the number of deaths at 144, including 23 teenagers.

The Iranian government says none of the teenagers died at the hands of officials and maintains that some died by suicide or of pre-existing conditions. Some families such as Amini’s have rejected the government stance while others have publicly supported the official narrative. 

Last week in the city of Ardabil, teenager Asra Panahi died in mysterious circumstances. Her uncle told state media she had health issues but Ali Daei, a former football star from the same city, claimed she was killed by security forces. “History will show who is lying,” he said on Tuesday. The judiciary urged him to present evidence for his claims.

The IFSC said it had been in contact with Rekabi and was “trying to establish the facts”. It said it would continue to monitor the situation, adding that the safety of athletes was paramount and it supported their right to free speech.

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