An Iranian rock climber said on Tuesday her hijab had fallen by mistake while competing in an international competition in South Korea, after she was widely assumed to have expressed support for protests in Iran.
Footage taken of Elnaz Rekabi, 33, had shown her scaling a wall without her head covered during the Asian competition while representing Iran, which has been swept by protests ignited by Mahsa Amini's death in morality police custody.
In a statement posted on her Instagram account, Rekabi said she was on her way back to Iran with the rest of the team.
Infuriating: One day after competing without headscarf at Asian Climbing Competition, #Iran’s Elnaz Rekabi has gone missing, phone confiscated, @IranWireEnglish reports that she is being flown to Evin prison. Cruel doesn’t even begin to describe it: pic.twitter.com/HMkxh4n2lN— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) October 18, 2022
Citing an informed source, BBC Persian had earlier reported that friends had been unable to contact her. Another BBC report confirmed that Rekabi had boarded a plane but stressed that there were still concerns for her safety, and others feared she could be headed for Evin Prison.
Amini died last month while in the custody of the Islamic Republic's morality police, who detained her for "inappropriate attire," prompting nationwide protests during which women have removed and burned their headscarves.
The statement on Rekabi's Instagram page said "not wearing her headscarf during the competition in Seoul was unintentional... there was poor scheduling and I was called her to climb unpredictably."
Iran’s embassy in South Korea, on Twitter, denied reports about her going missing after the competition.
What has Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi accomplished?
According to the Tehran Times, she Rekabi Iran's first woman to win a medal at the IFSC World Championships in 2021, where she won bronze.
"For sure when its hot, the hijab becomes a problem. During competition, your body needs to evacuate the heat. But we have tried to create an outfit ourselves that respects the hijab and is compatible with practicing the sport of climbing."Elnaz Rekabi in a 2016 interview
France-based European media outlet Euronews interviewed Rekabi in 2016, asking her about wearing the hijab during competitions. "At the beginning, it was a little bizarre for the other athletes, who were curious about a girl wearing a scarf on her head and an outfit that covered the arms and legs whilst competing inside in such a hot temperature," she replied.
"For sure when it's hot, the hijab becomes a problem," Rekabi said. "During competition, your body needs to evacuate the heat. But we have tried to create an outfit ourselves that respects the hijab and is compatible with practicing the sport of climbing.’‘