DUBAI: An Iranian climber who took part in an international competition without a headscarf says she did so unintentionally, after she was widely believed to have voiced her support for protests in Iran.
Pictures of Elnaz Rekabi33, had been shown climbing a wall without covering her head during the Asian competition in South Korea while representing Iran, which was swept away by protests sparked by The death of Mahsa Amini in moral custody.
Citing an informed source, BBC Persian previously reported that friends had been unable to contact her and there were fears for her safety. The Iranian Embassy in South Korea, on Twitter, denied reports that she disappeared after the competition.
In a statement posted to her Instagram account, Rekabi said she was on her way back to Iran with the rest of the team.
The statement said not wearing his headscarf during the competition was unintentional, adding “there was a bad schedule and I was called upon to climb unpredictably.”
The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) said it had been in contact with Rekabi and was “attempting to establish the facts”. The IFSC will continue to monitor developments upon his arrival in Iran. The athlete safety was paramount and it supported their right to freedom of expressionhe added.
Amini died last month while in the custody of the Islamic Republic vice police who held her for ‘inappropriate dress’, sparking nationwide protests in which women abducted and burned scarves.
The protests sparked by Amini’s death have become one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, although the unrest does not appear close to toppling the system.
The IFSC, in a statement, said it had also been in contact with the Iranian Climbing Federation.
“Our understanding is that she is returning to Iran, and we will continue to monitor the situation as it develops upon her arrival,” he said in a statement.
“Athlete safety is paramount to us and we support all efforts to ensure the safety of a valued member of our community in this situation,” the statement added.
“The IFSC fully supports the rights of athletes, their choices and the expression of free speech.”
Rekabi finished fourth in the competition. Last year she won bronze in the women’s combined event at the 2021 IFSC Climbing World Championships.

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