Elnaz Rekabi: Concerns are mounting for the Iranian mountaineer after she competed without a hijab


An Iranian mountaineer, who did not wear a hijab at an international competition in South Korea, traveled to Iran on Tuesday, as Iranian groups based abroad raised alarm about her fate at home.

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, competed without a headscarf at the International Federation of Sport Climbing Asian Championships in Seoul on Sunday. Videos of her wearing a headband with a ponytail while competing are circulating on social media.

Her return to Iran comes amid nationwide protests in Iran demanding more freedoms for women, after a 22-year-old woman died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Karadsheh protest vpx

The protester says Iranian security forces fired “military bullets” at houses

In a story posted to Rekabi’s Instagram page on Tuesday, the athlete said she was “unexpectedly” asked to scale the wall, which “unintentionally” caused an issue with her hair coverage.

“Due to poor timing and being unexpectedly asked to climb the wall, I accidentally caused a problem with my hat,” she wrote.

“I apologize for the concern I have caused…currently I am returning to Iran with the team as per the established schedule,” the IG Story post said.

Iran requires women to wear a hijab when officially representing the country abroad.

A news website critical of the Iranian regime, IranWire, claimed that Rekabi would be taken to prison upon his arrival. CNN could not independently verify this claim.

The Iranian embassy in Seoul said that Rekabi left Wednesday along with “other members of the team” and “strongly denied all fake, false news and disinformation.”

In the Twitter post, the embassy posted a picture of Rekabi from previous games in Russia, where she competed in the headscarf.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) said it was “fully aware” of the news regarding Rekabi and it was its “understanding” that she was returning to Iran.

Iran requires women to wear a hijab when officially representing the country abroad.

“There is a lot of information in the public domain about Ms. Rekabi and as an organization we have tried to establish the facts. We have also been in contact with Ms. Rekabi and the Iranian Climbing Federation,” the IFSC said in a statement.

“We will continue to monitor the evolution of the situation upon their arrival,” the statement said.

In response to a request, the South Korean government said it could not reveal private information about whether an individual had left the country.

Calls to two Iranian team coaches currently in Seoul went unanswered.