Who Is Elnaz Rekabi, The Iranian Female Climber Who Competed Without a Hijab?

The recent protests in Iran have drawn attention to the country over the last month.  Against this backdrop of international scrutiny, Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi recently competed without her hijab—an action that was seen by many as a gesture of protest, though it is unclear if this was intentional on Rekabi’s part. Rekabi then seemed to disappear for a time, drawing concern from the international community, before resurfacing—though there are still concerns for her long-term safety. Get all the details on Rekabi’s situation below.

Who is Elnaz Rekabi?

Elnaz Rekabi is a 33-year-old Iranian woman who was awarded the bronze medal in the women’s combined event at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in 2021.

Why has she received international attention lately?

At the 2022 IFSC Climbing Asian Championships in Seoul, South Korea earlier this month, Rekabi was seen competing without her headscarf in an apparent violation of Iran’s mandatory hijab law; the event took place as protests raged across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini and the repression enacted by the country’s current political regime, leading some to wonder if Rekabi shed her hijab as an act of political defiance.

What happened after the competition?

Two days after the competition in Seoul, Rekabi was reported missing, with a cryptic post on her Instagram account explaining that she was traveling back to Iran with her team members and would explain the whole situation soon (and adding that the removal of her headscarf was an accident). It was then reported that Rekabi’s passport and mobile phone had been seized, worrying many of her supporters. However, when Rekabi returned to Iran on October 19, she was greeted with a hero’s welcome.

Will Rekabi face retribution from the Iranian government for competing without her hijab?

The president of Iran’s national Olympic committee said on Thursday that Rekabi would not be punished or suspended for competing without her hijab, but there is still ongoing concern from the international community about her safety.

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