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Iranian Rock Climber Goes Missing after Competing in Seoul without a Hijab

Last year, Elnaz Rekabi became the first Iranian woman to secure a medal at the sport climbing world championships

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IRAN: There are growing fears for an Iranian rock climber who competed in an international tournament without a traditional hijab (or head covering) in South Korea, after friends notified the media official service that they had been unable to contact her since Sunday.

The news officials also quoted “well-informed sources” as saying Elnaz Rekabi’s passport and mobile phone had been confiscated.

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The reporter tweeted on Tuesday morning that Rekabi was on a plane bound for Tehran and that “there are concerns about her safety”, perhaps due to the reason that she was not wearing the hijab during the competition.

Rekabi competed in the Asian Championships. The International Federation of Sport Climbing, which organised it, has been contacted for comment. Meanwhile, the online news website reported that Rekabi was transferred to the Iranian embassy in Seoul to ensure her safe passage back home with limited security.

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On Tuesday, the Iranian embassy in Seoul tweeted, ”Rekabi departed from Seoul to Iran, early morning of October 18, 2022, along with the other members of the team”.

“The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in South Korea strongly denies all the fake, false news and disinformation regarding Ms. Elnaz REKABI,” it said.

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The news agency reported that Rekabi would be flown back to Tehran on Tuesday, one day before her scheduled departure, in order to avoid the widespread, public demonstrations at Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Iran has been embroiled in the fatal repercussions of its own staunch, conservative ideals after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, allegedly died in the hands of the notorious morality police over her “unsuitable attire”.

Iran’s diabolical imposition of the hijab as a mandatory piece of virtuous clothing for women has ultimately lead to the death of a young woman, and eventually fanned the flames of feminist resistance.

Several women have now taken to the streets, burning their veils and chopping their locks, chanting “zan, zindagi, azadi” (woman, life, and freedom), in active and public defiance of the Islamic Republic’s stringent moral laws.

Last year, Rekabi became the first Iranian woman to secure a medal at the sport climbing world championships. She finished fourth at last weekend’s event in South Korea. A video clip showed her scaling a wall with her hair tied back in a ponytail during the event.

Rekabi’s active presence on social media platform, Instagram, shows countless videos of her training while wearing a hijab. She becomes the second Iranina athlete of late to openly defy Iran’s strict law mandating women to wear the Islamic head covering.

The first woman to take the challenge was boxer Sadaf Khadem, who became the first Iranian woman to win a fight overseas in 2019. Following the fight, Khadem made the decision to stay in France because Iranian officials reportedly issued an arrest warrant for her due to the fact that she had boxed bareheaded and in shorts.

Rekabi has previously commented on the specific limitations of wearing a stifling head covering in a sport which requires huge manpower and leads to excessive perspiration.

In a 2016 interview, she said, “At first, it seemed strange to the other athletes, who were curious about a girl wearing a scarf on her head and an outfit that covered her arms and legs while competing inside in such hot weather.”

“When it’s hot, the hijab becomes a problem because your body needs to evacuate the heat during competition, but we’ve tried to create an outfit ourselves that respects the hijab while also being compatible with climbing,” she added.

But she has maintained that as a personal choice, she would opt for more appropriate clothing that would honour her religious faith and yet be comfortable at the same time. 

Also Read: Swedish MEP Cuts Her Hair to Support Iran’s Anti-hijab Protests

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