Iranian climber competes without headscarf at international event

Elnaz Rekabi is only second athlete not to adhere to the country's hijab rule, as protests continue in Iran over death of a young woman

Iranian sport climber Elnaz Rekabi has won more than 80 medals in her career. Photo: Facebook
Powered by automated translation

An Iranian climber went against her country's strict dress code on Sunday, competing in South Korea without wearing a headscarf.

This comes amid weeks of massive protests following the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police, after she was arrested for violating Iran's hijab rules.

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, is only the second Iranian female athlete to compete in public without wearing a hijab.

In a video that went viral on social media, she scaled a climbing wall with her hair tied back in a ponytail in the International Federation of Sport Climbing Asian Championships final.

The athlete, from Tehran, finished fourth at the event in South Korea's capital Seoul.

She previously won a bronze medal for boulder climbing at last year's competition and records show she has won more than 80 medals over the course of her career.

Protests continue across Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of the morality police on September 16.

She had been held three days earlier for wearing her hijab “improperly”.

Human rights groups estimate at least 230 people have been killed in the subsequent unrest, including 32 minors.

While Rekabi was widely praised online, concern was also raised over the repercussions she will likely face at home.

“Very powerful statement,” Iranian journalist Sima Sabet said on Twitter.

“She might not be allowed to be part of the national team again, or be punished, but she showed the world how an Iranian woman looks like.”

Multiple fires on road in Iran's Javanrud as protests continue

Multiple fires on road in Iran's Javanrud as protests continue

Some commentators said she will face prosecution in Iran.

In 2019, boxer Sadaf Khadem became both the first Iranian woman to win a boxing match and the first to compete without a headscarf.

She cancelled her return flight to Tehran after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Iran had only recently opened up sport to women, on condition that they were coached by a woman and compete wearing a hijab.

Updated: October 19, 2022, 7:36 AM