Elnaz Rekabi: Fans cheer, clap as climber returns to Iran

Elnaz Rekabi: Fans cheer, clap as climber returns to Iran

DUBAI, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, who caused controversy by competing in an international contest without a headscarf, has returned to Iran to cheering supporters, reiterating in comments to state media she had climbed without a hijab unintentionally.

Footage had shown Rekabi, 33, scaling a wall without her head covered while representing Iran at a competition in South Korea, at a time of unprecedented protests in Iran over the death in custody of a young woman detained by morality police for “inappropriate attire. “

In comments to state TV upon her arrival in Tehran, Rekabi said she had returned in “full health” and apologized to “the people of Iran for the turbulence and worry that I created”, her head covered by a baseball cap and a hood as she spoke.

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“The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab that I should have had, and I went to the wall and ascended,” she added.

A crowd of well-wishers cheered, clapped and recorded the scene on mobile phones as she was driven away from the airport, according to footage posted on Twitter.

In a statement published on her Instagram account on Tuesday, Rekabi poor scheduling as the reason she had competed without a headscarf, saying she had been called to climb unexpectedly.

In her televised comments Rekabi, who came fourth in the competition, denied she had been unreachable for 48 hours, and said the team had returned to Iran as planned. She said she had no plan to quit the national team.

BBC Persian had reported on Tuesday that friends had been unable to contact her, and there were fears for her safety. Iran’s embassy in South Korea, on Twitter, denied reports about her going missing after the competition.

The International Olympic Committee said it had talked to the athlete and had received assurances from the Iran’s national Olympic committee (NOC) that she would not face consequences.

“A joint meeting took place today between the IOC, the (international climbing federation) IFSC and the Iranian NOC, during which the IOC and the IFSC received clear assurances that Ms Rekabi will not suffer any consequences and will continue to train and compete,” an IOC spokesperson said.

Another joint meeting was then held between the groups and Rekabi, the spokesperson said, adding that the IOC would monitor the situation closely in the days and weeks to come.

The death last month of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s morality police, who detained her for “inappropriate attire”, prompted nationwide protests during which women have removed and burned headscarves.

The protests ignited by Amini’s death have grown into one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, though the unrest does not appear close to toppling the system.

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Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by William Maclean and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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