Iran: Concerns for an unveiled climber during an international competition

Iran: Concerns over unveiled climber at competition international


Concern persisted on Tuesday over the fate of an Iranian sportswoman, Elnaz Rekabi, who participated without a veil in the Asian climbing championships in South Korea, a gesture seen as a sign of solidarity with the protests in Iran. 

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, wore a bandana during the bouldering event and a headband showing his hair during a second event, according to footage released by the International Climbing Federation.

< p>The competition, where she placed fourth, took place on Sunday, a month to the day after the death of Mahsa Amini arrested in Tehran for “wearing inappropriate clothes” due to a veil insufficiently covering her hair in view of the morality police and sparked a wave of protests across the country.

Sport has become an extremely sensitive topic in Iran since these protests , several renowned Iranian sportswomen having spoken out in favor of women's rights. Famous footballers have also come under fire for comments on the move, such as soccer legend Ali Daei, who had his passport briefly confiscated.

In her first comment since Sunday, Elnaz Rekabi presented on her Instagram account, which has more than 200,000 followers, “an apology for the concern” she may have caused and assures that the decision to remove her veil was “not not intentional” but motivated by the call to perform the test earlier than planned.

The Islamic Republic requires Iranian sportswomen to wear the veil even in competitions abroad.

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Many questions 

Supporters on the social networks of the protest had called Ms. Rekabi a “heroine”, publishing images of her escalation accompanied by the slogan of the mobilization “woman, life, freedom”.

“I am currently on the way back to Iran with the team according to the planned schedule”, announces the interested party on Instagram.

But the circumstances of the publication of this press release have raised many questions, because Unconfirmed reports have reported pressure on Elnaz Rekabi from Iranian officials in South Korea.

The BBC in Persian quoted an unnamed source as saying her friends failed to reach her and the team left her hotel in Seoul on Monday, two days earlier than planned.

Son mobile phone and her passport were confiscated from her, according to the same source.

The Iran Wire news site reports that the president of the Iranian climbing federation allegedly lured her to the embassy of Iran. Iran to drive her directly to the airport.

He reportedly promised Elnaz Rekabi that she would be able to return safely to Iran on the condition that she hand over her phone and passport, according to the media.

But the Iranian embassy in Seoul denied “all false information and disinformation” about her situation and claimed that she had left South Korea with her teammates on Tuesday, according to a press release sent to AFP.

Flurry of reactions 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “aware” of this case and warned that it would “follow it very carefully”, according to a statement by one of its spokespersons, Ravina Shamdasani. , in Geneva.

“Women should never be prosecuted for what they wear. They should never suffer violations of their rights such as arbitrary detention or any form of violence because of what they wear,” she said.

Elnaz Rekabi is the second Iranian known to have participated unveiled in a sports competition since the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1979, after the boxer Sadaf Khadem in 2019, exiled in France since.

The Iranian press agency Fars, who expresses the regime's most authoritarian tendencies, denounced Elnaz Rekabi's attitude without naming her in an editorial published on Tuesday.

The author wonders why the “Western, Zionist and Saudis” ignored the performances of veiled Iranian sportswomen to “shed light on those of a woman with unconventional behavior”.