An Iranian female climber who competed in a South Korean championship without the hijab has reportedly gone missing and is expected to be arrested upon her return to the Islamic Republic.
Elnaz Rekabi, who went viral for competing without the Islamic headscarf at the Asian Championships of the International Sports Climbing Federation in Seoul on Sunday, was not heard.
His friends told the BBC’s Persian service, which has extensive contacts within Iran despite being banned from operating there, that they had been unable to contact Rekabi. The outlet cited an unnamed “informed source” who claimed Iranian officials seized both Rekabi’s phone and passport.
BBC Persian also reported that Rekabi would be arrested upon her return to the Islamic Republic.
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A subsequent Instagram post on an account attributed to Rekabi claimed that not wearing the hijab was “unintentional”, although it was not immediately clear whether she wrote the post or what condition she was in at the time.
According to the Associated Press, the Iranian government regularly exerts pressure on activists at home and abroad, often broadcasting what the human rights group describes as forced confessions on state television.
Rekabi, 33, did not wear the hijab during Sunday’s final at the Asian Championship of the International Climbing Federation, according to the Seoul-based Korea Alpine Federation, the organizer of the event. Federation officials said Rekabi wore a hijab during her first appearances at the week-long climbing event.
She wore only a black headband when competing on Sundays, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail; he had a white shirt with the flag of Iran as a logo. Video of Rekabi competing without a headscarf went viral as protests sparked by the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained by the country’s moral police for wearing the hijab too loosely, entered the fifth. week more than 100 Iranian cities.
Rekabi left Seoul on a flight Tuesday morning, the Iranian embassy in South Korea said. His departure was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the flight was brought forward.
In a tweet, the Iranian embassy in Seoul denied “all false, false and misinformation reports” regarding Rekabi’s departure. But instead of posting a photo of her from the Seoul competition, he posted an image of her wearing a headscarf in a previous competition in Moscow, where she had won a bronze medal.
IranWire, another country-focused website founded by Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who was once detained by Iran, reported that Rekabi was somehow duped by Reza Zarei, the head of the Iranian Climbing Federation, to enter the Iranian embassy in Seoul and hand over. her passport and his phone in exchange for his guaranteed safe return to Iran.
According to the outlet, Zarei was commissioned to do so by Mohammad Khosravivafa, president of the Iranian Olympic Committee. Khosravivafa was ordered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to transfer Rekabi to the embassy. The fast flight was reportedly to prevent protesters from gathering outside the embassy in South Korea.
IranWire reported that once Rekabi arrived at Imam Khomeini International Airport, she would be immediately transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison. The prison was the scene of a huge fire that killed at least eight prisoners.
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Rekabi reportedly made the decision to compete without the hijab about a month ago, but she did not choose to seek asylum in South Korea because her husband returned to Iran and she, therefore, wanted to be able to return to her home country. origin after the competition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.