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Iranian Athlete Missing After Climbing Without Hijab

By Azeezat Okunlola | Oct 18, 2022

Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian athlete who competed at the Asian Sport Climbing Championships in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday despite limitations imposed by the Islamic Republic, has vanished. 

According to the BBB's Persian service, those close to Rekabi haven't heard from her since Monday night. According to the source, Rekabi and the other Iranian sportsmen left the Garden Seoul Hotel on Monday morning and were scheduled to fly back to Iran on Wednesday.

A video of the athlete competing in the event without a headscarf has also gone viral. The Iranian climber is making history by competing in an international tournament without covering her head with a hijab.

BBC presenter Rana Rahimpour on Tuesday tweeted about the athlete boarding a plane for the Iranian capital of Tehran. “There are concerns about her safety,” Rahimpour wrote. She also tweeted, “Update: we have found out that Elnaz Rakebi is on a plane heading to #Tehran, two days earlier than planned. There are concerns about her safety. #Iran #MahsaAmini”

On Tuesday, the Iranian Embassy in South Korea tweeted that Rekabi "departed from Seoul to Iran, early morning of October 18, 2022, along with the other members of the Team" and that it "strongly denies all the fraudulent, false news and disinformation regarding Elnaz Rekabi."

This report surfaces as large protests have shaken Iran after the September death of a 22-year-old woman who the country's morality police had arrested.

Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish lady, was imprisoned for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic of Iran's strict clothing code for women and later died in the custody of Iran's morality police. When she was arrested in Tehran, she slipped into a coma and died three days later.

Since the protests began in September, over 100 people have died, according to an Iran Human Rights organisation in Oslo. Women slashed their hair in protest, and some even burned their headscarves.