Elnaz Rekabi: Iranian female climber receives warm welcome on arrival home

She reportedly went missing after not wearing hijab at championship in Seoul

Iranian climber who competed without hijab returns to Tehran

Iranian climber who competed without hijab returns to Tehran
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A female Iranian rock climber, who did not wear a headscarf at an international competition in South Korea and was reported missing on Tuesday, received a warm public welcome upon arrival back home in Tehran on Wednesday.

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, competed without a hijab during the International Federation of Sport Climbing's Asia Championships in Seoul on Sunday. She drew international attention after a video of her wearing a headband with her hair in a ponytail while competing went viral.

Iranian climber who competed without hijab returns to Tehran

Iranian climber who competed without hijab returns to Tehran

She later apologised for what had happened during the competition.

At Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, crowds cheered for Rekabi and chanted "Elnaz is a heroine" upon her arrival.

Thousands were seen waiting for the athlete at the airport, where she was greeted by family members and interviewed by state media.

“It was completely unintentional,” she said.

"I was unexpectedly called and I had to compete. I was busy putting on my shoes and technical gear and that caused me to forget putting on the hijab I had to be wearing. Then I went to compete.

"Fortunately, I came back to Iran with peace of mind. Although I went through a lot of tension and stress, so far, thank God, nothing has happened."

She denied claims that she went missing for a day.

The BBC on Tuesday morning reported that sources close to Rekabi said they had been unable to contact her since Monday night.

"No. This didn't happen," Rekabi said. "We came back to Iran according to the plan. Until this moment everything has been going on according to plan."

It is unknown whether she will now face repercussions in Iran, where a strict dress code is enforced by the theocratic state.

Rekabi said she had been feeling "stressed" and "tense" about returning home but was fine, and denied she intended to retire from the sport.

In a story posted on her Instagram page on Tuesday, the athlete apologised for "the worries" she had caused.

The rock-climbing competition took place as female-led demonstrations against Iran's clerical rulers were continuing, over strict rules on women's attire.

Rekabi became the second Iranian athlete not to adhere to Tehran's strict dress code while representing her country at the championships in South Korean capital on Sunday.

She finished fourth in the event and made headlines around the world for not wearing the hijab.

Iran has made it mandatory for women to wear a hijab when officially representing the country abroad.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 8:32 AM