Elnaz Rekabi: Fans cheer, clap as climber returns to Iran

DUBAI, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Iranian mountaineer Elnaz Rekabi, who sparked controversy by participating in an international competition without a headscarf, has returned to Iran to cheering supporters, repeating in comments to state media that she was unintentionally without the hijab had climbed.

Footage had shown 33-year-old Rekabi bareheaded scaling a wall while representing Iran at a competition in South Korea, at a time of unprecedented protests in Iran over the death of a young woman in custody, who was accused by morality police of ” inappropriate clothing” was arrested. “

In comments to state television upon her arrival in Tehran, Rekabi said she returned “in perfect health” and apologized to “the people of Iran for the turmoil and concern I’ve caused,” covering her head with a baseball cap and hood covered you spoke.

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“The struggle I had wearing my shoes and getting my gear ready made me forget the right hijab I should have been wearing and I went to the wall and climbed up,” she added.

Crowds of well-wishers cheered, clapped and recorded the scene on cellphones as she was driven away from the airport, according to footage posted to Twitter.

In a statement posted to her Instagram account on Tuesday, Rekabi cited poor planning as the reason she went without a headscarf and said she was unexpectedly called to climb.

In her TV commentary, Rekabi, who finished fourth in the competition, denied she had been unavailable for 48 hours and said the team returned to Iran as planned. She said she has no plans to leave the national team.

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BBC Persian reported on Tuesday that friends could not reach her and fears for her safety. The Iranian embassy in South Korea denied reports of her disappearance after the competition on Twitter.

The International Olympic Committee said it had spoken to the athlete and received assurances from Iran’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) that she would not face any consequences.

“Today a joint meeting was held between the IOC, the (international climbing federation) IFSC and the Iranian NOC, at which the IOC and the IFSC received clear assurances that Ms. Rekabi will not suffer any consequences and will continue to train and compete,” said an IOC spokesman.

Another joint meeting between the groups and Rekabi then took place, the spokesman said, adding that the IOC will be closely monitoring the situation in the coming days and weeks.

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The death of Mahsa Amini last month while she was in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s Morality Police, who arrested her for “inappropriate dress”, sparked nationwide protests in which women have taken off headscarves and burned them.

The protests sparked by Amini’s death have grown into one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, although the unrest does not appear close to overthrowing the system.

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Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by William Maclean and Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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