An Iranian female rider who competed in a world championship without a hijab did so by mistake and her headscarf fell off, according to a post on her Instagram account.
The footage of Elnaz Rekabi, 33, scaling a wall with her head uncovered at the world championships, came amid large-scale women’s demonstrations against Iran’s ruling clerics. by Islamic rules on women’s clothing.
Supporters of the protests on social media called Rekabi a “hero”, posting photos of her climbing over the letters of the protest slogan “women, life, freedom”.
Nothing has been heard from Rekabi since the event in South Korea until a message was posted Tuesday morning on her Instagram account, which has more than 200,000 followers.
“First of all I apologize for all the worries I caused,” said the statement, explaining that due to the time and the sudden call to start the climb, his “hijab” was in trouble.
“I am currently going back to Iran with the team on a schedule that was arranged in advance,” he added.
Iran’s government has been cracking down on activists at home and abroad, and right-wing groups often show the confession on state television. The claim of wrongdoing on her Instagram account alleges that the government is trying to avoid sending her to jail after a video of her not wearing her hijab was posted.
On Tuesday, the BBC cited “good sources” as saying that Rekabi’s passport and mobile phone had been confiscated before he boarded a plane to Tehran.
BBC World Service presenter Rana Rahimpour tweeted “there are concerns about his safety”.
The Iran Wire news website reported that Rekabi had been taken to Iran’s embassy in Seoul to arrange for him to be sent home with minimal supervision.
Iran Wire, a small anti-regime website, published a report saying that Rekabi would be returned to Tehran on Sunday – a day earlier than planned – to prevent protests at the airport of Imam Khomeini.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Iranian athlete and his team had left the country, without comment.
In a tweet on TuesdayIran’s ambassador in Seoul said it “strongly rejects fake news, lies and lies” about Rekabi.
Iran has been gripped by deadly protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last month. The 22-year-old was arrested by the country’s moral police for not wearing the hijab properly.
The demonstrations in Iran, drawing school-aged children, oil workers and others to the streets in more than 100 cities, represent the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since during the mass protests surrounding his disputed presidential election in 2009. Some of the female protesters burned their hijabs and cut off their hair, while the crowd chanted “zan, zendegi, azadi” (“woman, life, freedom”).
So far, human rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed in the protests and subsequent violence by security forces.
Last year, Rekabi became the first Iranian woman to win a medal at the world championships. He finished fourth at last week’s event in South Korea. A video clip She was shown scaling a wall with her hair tied back in a ponytail during the event.
Rekabi, who posted photos on Instagram of herself training while wearing a hijab, is believed to be the second Iranian female athlete to compete in defiance of Iran’s strict ban on and that women should wear the Islamic head covering.
In 2019, boxer Sadaf Khadem became the first Iranian woman since the Islamic revolution to win a fight abroad. Khadem decided to stay in France after the war, after reports that Iranian authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest because he was wearing a bare chest and shorts.
In a 2016 interview with France-based Euronews, Rekabi admitted that wearing the hijab while climbing poses more physical challenges.
“In the beginning it was strange for the other athletes, who were surprised about the girl wearing a scarf on her head and a dress covering her arms and legs while competing in the hot hot,” he said.
“Because the hijab gets hot, it’s a problem. During the competition, your body has to escape the heat. But we’ve tried to create a dress that respects the hijab and is compatible with practicing the sport. climbing.
Iran’s Fars news agency, which expresses hard-line views, issued a statement on Sunday condemning Rekabi but refrained from mentioning his name.
Asked why the “Western, Zionist and Saudi” media ignored the recent victories of Iranian women wearing headscarves in sports and weightlifting but “has praise the work of a girl without meaning.”
Iran’s leaders, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have always said that the country’s foreign enemies are behind the demonstrations, rather than Iranians who were angered by Amini’s death and the other woes of the country.
In a statement on Tuesday, the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights called for the immediate release of all those “detained” during the protests. It also condemned the “violent response by the security forces” that has seen children arrested and killed.