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Elnaz Rekabi Returns To Iran After Competing Without Hijab

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi, 33, returned home to Tehran on Wednesday October 19, 2023 after competing in the Asian Championships in South Korea. Rekabi recently gained popularity in the news after competing without a hijab amid ongoing protests against the dress codes in Iran. 


On Sunday October 16, Rekabi competed in the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asian Championships in Seoul. Rekabi took to the wall without her hijab. BBC News reports on her Instagram apology post for competing with the headscarf. She said, “Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off.” However, BBC reporter Rana Rahimpour says that other women athletes who have competed abroad without a headscarf have been pressured by Iranian authorities to make a public statement of apologies. 


After competing, the Iranian communities around the world were worried for how she would be welcomed back into Iran. She was reported as going missing according to BBC News after the competition when her cell phone and passport were confiscated and she was said to be with an Iranian official. The Instagram post came the day before she arrived home.


She arrived in Tehran on Wednesday morning to crowds and media. The were posted inside and outside the airport, with some chanting, “Elnaz the hero,” according to CNN. These praises mimic the attitudes of Iranian protest groups who thought Rekabi was making a statement by not competing with her hijab, though the Instagram post says otherwise. 


According to BBC News, the dress code in Iran calls for women to cover their hair with a hijab and their limbs with loose-fitted clothing. Additionally, women must adhere to the dress code when competing elsewhere but still representing Iran. 


Rekabi’s competing without a hijab comes at the time of widespread protests in Iran. Iranians are protesting the dress code and the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was killed while in police custody after being arrested in Tehran on September 13, 2022 for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab. 


The protests feature both women and men calling for the end to the dress code. According to CNN, demonstrators can be seen chanting, “Women, life, freedom,” setting bonfires, removing and burning their hijabs, and cutting off their hair in solidarity with Amini.


The Iranian authority’s response to the ongoing protests has turned fatal, with Iran Human Rights reporting that 215 people have been killed including 27 children. 

As of Wednesday when Rekabi returned to Tehran, it is not known if she will face an repercussions according to CNN.

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Tags: protests Iran hijab rock climbing Elnaz Rekabi

1 comment

1 month, 2 weeks ago by GPemberton

I hope she's doing okay... News like this tends to go cold after a while, and it's important that this underlying issue about oppression in Iran needs to be reported.

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