Rekabi had previously worn a hijab, which made what seemed to be a daring political statement widely observed by Western media and Iranian spectators. Iranian female athletes always wear a hijab while competing abroad.
Amnesty International rated Rekabi’s activities as “courageous,”, while the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran gave it an “brave,” rating. Both organizations noted that individuals who had committed comparable crimes in Iran had suffered “serious consequences.”
However, on Tuesday, she apologized for not donning a hijab during the competition and stated that it was due to “poor time and an unforeseen demand for me to climb.”
Rekabi would be traveling back to Iran with the rest of the crew, according to the statement, which was written in Farsi. The circumstances surrounding the posting of the statement are still unknown, and NBC News was unable to independently confirm whether Rekabi wrote it herself.
Rekabi had left Seoul for Iran hours earlier, according to a tweet from the Iranian Embassy in Seoul that was written in English and stated that he had done so “together with the other members of the team.”
The statement continued, “The Islamic Republic of Iran Embassy in South Korea vehemently refutes all the fraudulent, misleading news and misinformation against Ms. Elnaz Rekabi.”
The embassy has been contacted by NBC News for additional comment; calls on Tuesday went unanswered. After attending the ceremony, Elnaz Rekabi and the rest of the Iranian delegation were claimed to have already left South Korea, according to the foreign ministry of South Korea.
Rekabi and the Iranian Climbing Federation have been in communication with the International Federation of Sport Climbing, according to an statement published on Tuesday.
In the statement, it was stated that “there is a great deal of information in the public domain involving Ms. Rekabi and as an institution we have been working to determine the facts.” “Our understanding is that she is going back to Iran, and we will continue to watch how things play out when she gets there.”
The group also emphasized athletes’ rights and the freedom of speech, saying that it backed any steps made to “keep a valuable member of our society safe in this scenario.”
Iran Human Rights’ director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, expressed his concern for Rekabi in a message through email. He believes that she was “made” to claim that she did not wear her hijab accidentally by Iranian authorities.
In order to set an example for future athletes and young ladies generally and ensure that this kind of disobedience doesn’t occur again, he added, “Based on our knowledge of the Islamic Republic, they will go very far.” “Fear is the basis of their rule. Elnaz’s actions help to dispel the fear, and the authorities won’t stand for it. The system’s survival is at stake.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran’s deputy director, Jasmin Ramsey, stated that the organization is worried for Rekabi’s safety as well as “the safety of all women who are being punished in Iran for engaging in civil disobedience.”
She claimed in an email that “the Iranian government has transformed the hijab, which should be a choice, into a tool of political repression.”
The death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested by morality police for allegedly disobeying the strict Islamic dress code in the country, which had led to her detention, served as the first catalyst for the month-long protests that have shaken Iran. In response, women all around the nation have cut their hair and started going out in public with their heads bare. The protests that followed have turned into Iran’s government’s greatest significant threat in more than a decade.
Rekabi is not the first female Iranian athlete to experience problems as a result of dressing inappropriately while competing. In 2019, boxer Sadaf Khadem was forced to remain in France after claiming that Iranian authorities had issued an arrest warrant for her after she competed in shorts and without a headscarf.