Iranian Climber Who Competed Without Hijab Greeted by Supporters Back Home

Elnaz Rekabi was met at the airport in Tehran by friends and family. In an interview with state TV, she reiterated her apology for not competing in a hijab.
Dipo Faloyin
London, GB
Elnaz Rekabi

An Iranian climber who recently took part in an international climbing tournament without wearing a hijab was greeted by rapturous crowds on her return to Iran after reports of fears for her welfare

On Sunday, Elnaz Rekabi competed at the International Federation of Sport Climbing's Asian Championships in Seoul with her hair uncovered, in what some claimed was an act of defiance against Iranian law that requires athletes to abide by the country’s strict public dress codes when competing at international tournaments. 


It came as women across Iran protest against the country’s hijab laws and the treatment of women by the country’s so-called “morality police”. 

Following the event, BBC Persian reported that friends had been unable to contact Rekabi, sparking fears for her safety. Reports also claimed that the climber was put on a plane back to Iran two days earlier than originally planned. 

In a statement posted on Twitter, The Iranian Embassy in Seoul denied the initial reports, claiming they contained “false information” about Rekabi’s status. Another statement posted via Rekabi’s Instagram account included an apology apparently from the climber. “I would like to apologise for the concerns I caused,” the message read. “The sensitive issues that arose related to my head covering during the finals in South Korea was due to an organising error, and bad timing just before I climbed the wall.

After returning to Iran, Rekabi reiterated her apology in an interview with state TV at the airport. “I was suddenly and unexpectedly called on to compete while I was at the women's locker room,” she said. “I was busy [with] my shoes and fixing my equipment and forgot to wear my hijab, which I should have worn.”

Punishments for women failing to comply with the country’s dress code range from fines to jail sentences.