Iranian Female Rockclimber Competes Without Hijab, Faces Retaliation

Elnaz Rekabi, the Iranian professional rock climber who competed in South Korea without a hijab, allegedly apologized to Iran’s sports minister.

In a press statement on Thursday by Hamid Sajjadi, Iran’s sports minister, Rekabi was said to have expressed regret and that she was sorry for the incident.

“Something happened to one of our female athletes in the last three or four days in a sports competition, and she explained everything to me completely yesterday,” Sajjadi told reporters.

Due to stress, Sajjadi said Rekabi admitted to forgetting her hijab during the competition. “She said she is ashamed,” he added.

Rekabi’s appearance followed Sajjadi’s statement in front of the press, where the athlete repeated what Sajjadi claimed. Davoud Rekabi, her brother, also appeared with her after the sports minister gave his statement.

Rekabi reiterated on her Instagram account, apologizing for the incident. Rekabi blamed the “poor scheduling” in the post that prompted her to climb unpredictably.

“I apologize about what I did to make you worry,” Rekabi’s Instagram post said.

The 33-year-old athlete competed during the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asia Championship finals in Seoul, South Korea.

Human rights advocates and Iranian protesters embraced Rekabi’s support and representation when she completed her climb without wearing a hijab. They say Rikabi’s act was a defiance of the Islamic regime and a show of support for the demonstrations across Iran. Several international celebrities, including American actress Jessica Chastain, praised Rekabi for her bravery.

But fears are growing over Rekabi’s safety and the alleged retaliation by the Iranian regime. Before flying back to Iran, Rekabi allegedly disappeared while her family and friends lost contact with her.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, said the Islamic Republic seized Rekabi’s phone and passport. After going missing, the Iranian embassy in Seoul released a photo of Rekabi, dismissing allegations of detention as “false news and disinformation.”

However, BBC’s Persian service confirmed that the Islamic regime confiscated the athlete’s phone and passport after she competed.

Arriving in Iran on Wednesday, October 19, Rekabi was met by hundreds of supporters who were there to support her and to attempt to save her from possible detention.

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