Iran demolishes home of climber who competed without hijab

Judiciary says Elnaz Rekabi's home was razed because it was 'unauthorised'

Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi, speaking to journalists upon her arrival at the airport in Tehran on October 19 after competing in South Korea without wearing a headscarf. IRIB / EPA
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Iranian authorities have demolished the home of Elnaz Rekabi, a female rock climber who became a symbol of nationwide anti-government protests after competing abroad with her hair uncovered, official media reported on Saturday.

The report by the judiciary's news agency Mizan came after a video was shared on social media this week that appeared to show the demolition of Rekabi's family home in Zanjan province.

Mizan said the destruction of the villa was due to its “unauthorised construction and use of land” and that demolition took place months before Rekabi competed, citing the head of the judiciary in Zanjan.

Rekabi became a symbol of the anti-government movement in October after competing in a rock climbing competition in South Korea without wearing a headscarf as required under Iran's dress code for women. She said the act was “unintentional” in an Instagram post the following day.

Iranian officials appeared to have accepted her explanation, with the head of the country's Olympic committee saying she would not face any punishment.

Iran has been rocked by months of protests following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by morality police in Tehran in September for allegedly violating the dress code. The government has accused foreign countries of inciting the protests in which thousands of women have taken part, filming themselves burning their headscarves and cutting off their hair in an act of defiance.

On Sunday, Iran executed four people accused of being spies for Israel.

Iran carried out the sentences four days after the country's supreme court upheld the death penalty for "their intelligence co-operation with the Zionist regime [Israel] and kidnapping", Mizan Online said.

A violent state crackdown on the protests has claimed the lives of more than 450 civilians, according to Iranian rights groups monitoring the protests from abroad. Iranian officials have given varying lower figures of the death toll, that include deaths among state security forces.

According to Iran’s attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the law requiring women to cover their hair is under review.

“Both parliament and the judiciary are working” on the issue, the semi-official Isna news agency quoted Mr Montazeri as saying.

He did not specify what changes might be made by the two bodies, which are largely in the hands of conservatives.

The review team met on Wednesday with parliament's cultural commission “and will see the results in a week or two”, he said.

President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Iran's republican and Islamic foundations were constitutionally entrenched.

“But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” he said in televised comments.

The hijab became obligatory for all women in Iran in April 1983, four years after the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy.

Iran accuses its sworn enemy the US and its allies, including Britain, Israel and Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based outside the country, of fomenting the street protests which the government calls “riots”.

A general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people had lost their lives in the unrest.

Iran's top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, on Saturday said the number of people killed during the protests “exceeds 200".

Cited by state news agency Irna, it said the figure included security officers, civilians and “separatists” as well as “rioters”.

Oslo-based non-governmental organisation Iran Human Rights on Tuesday said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests”.

UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: December 04, 2022, 10:33 AM