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Iranian Climber Elnaz Rekabi Disappears After Competing Without Hijab

She competed at the Asian Championships where she finished fourth in boulder and lead for women

After Iranian competition climber Elnaz Rekabi competed without a Hijab in the IFSC Asian Championships in Seoul last week, the her Instagram site with 200,000 followers was full of praise for her athleticism and her bravery, given the way that the public removal of the hijab has become a symbol of protest against brutal government oppression of women in Iran right now.

Elnaz was only the second Iranian woman to compete without the Hijab, after boxer Sadef Khadem. Elnaz finished fourth in lead and boulder for women last week; see all of her IFSC results back to 2007 here.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is aware of the news regarding Rekabi. A statement from the IFSC said: “There is a lot of information in the public sphere regarding Ms Rekabi and as an organisation we have been trying to establish the facts. We have also been in contact with Ms Rekabi and the Iranian Climbing Federation. Our understanding is that she is returning to Iran, and we will continue to monitor the situation as it develops on her arrival. It is important to stress that athletes’ safety is paramount for us and we support any efforts to keep a valued member of our community safe in this situation. The IFSC fully support the rights of athletes, their choices, and expression of free speech.”

The Iranian embassy in Seoul wrote on twitter: “Ms. Elnaz 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.”

Rekabi posted the following statement on her own twitter account: “I firstly apologise for all the concerns I have caused,” the statement said. Due to the timing and sudden call to begin the climb “my hijab unintentionally became problematic,” it said. “I am currently on my way back to Iran alongside the team based on the pre-scheduled timetable.”

Where she is at time of writing is unknown, but iranwire.com stated that she would be taken to Iran, and “directly transferred to Evin prison from the airport.” Her last post on Instagram was at the start of September, when she shared a photo with the caption “New zone , new projects.” We’ll update the story once more information is available.