DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian aggressive climber Elnaz Rekabi obtained a hero’s welcome on her return to Tehran early Wednesday, after competing in South Korea with out carrying a compulsory headband required of feminine athletes from the Islamic Republic.
Rekabi’s resolution to not put on the hijab whereas competing Sunday got here as protests sparked by the Sept. 16 dying in custody of a 22-year-old girl have entered a fifth week. Mahsa Amini was detained by the nation’s morality police over her clothes — and her dying has seen ladies eradicating their necessary hijabs in public.
The demonstrations, drawing school-age kids, oil employees and others to the road in over 100 cities, characterize the most-serious problem to Iran’s theocracy for the reason that mass protests surrounding its disputed 2009 presidential election.
Supporters and Farsi-language media exterior of Iran have anxious about Rekabi’s security after she select to compete with out the hijab.
Rekabi on Wednesday repeated a proof posted earlier to an Instagram account in her title that described her not carrying a hijab as “unintentional.” The Iranian authorities routinely pressures activists at residence and overseas, typically airing what rights group describe as coerced confessions on state tv — the identical cameras she addressed on her arrival again residence.
Video shared on-line confirmed massive crowds gathered early Wednesday at Imam Khomeini Worldwide Airport exterior of Tehran, the sanctioned nation’s most important gateway in a foreign country. The movies, akin to recognized options of the airport, confirmed crowds chanting the 33-year-old Rekabi’s title and calling her a hero.
She walked into one of many airport’s terminals, filmed by state media and carrying a black baseball cap and a black hoodie masking her hair. She obtained flowers from an onlooker, after which repeated what had been posted on Instagram that not carrying the hijab was “unintentional” and her journey had been as beforehand deliberate.
Rekabi described being in a ladies’s solely ready space previous to her climb.
“As a result of I used to be busy placing on my footwear and my gear, it precipitated me to neglect to placed on my hijab after which I went to compete,” she stated.
She added: “I got here again to Iran with peace of thoughts though I had loads of stress and stress. However to this point, thank God, nothing has occurred.”
Exterior, she apparently entered a van and slowly was pushed by means of the gathered crowd, who cheered her. It wasn’t clear the place she went after that.
Rekabi left Seoul on a Tuesday morning flight. The BBC’s Persian service, which has intensive contacts inside Iran regardless of being banned from working there, quoted an unnamed “knowledgeable supply” who described Iranian officers as seizing each Rekabi’s cell phone and passport.
BBC Persian additionally stated she initially had been scheduled to return on Wednesday, however her flight apparently had been moved up unexpectedly.
IranWire, one other web site specializing in the nation based by Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who as soon as was detained by Iran, alleged that Rekabi can be instantly transferred to Tehran’s infamous Evin Jail after arriving within the nation. Evin Jail was the positioning of an enormous hearth this previous weekend that killed not less than eight prisoners.
In a tweet, the Iranian Embassy in Seoul denied “all of the pretend, false information and disinformation” concerning Rekabi’s departure. However as an alternative of posting a photograph of her from the Seoul competitors, it posted a picture of her carrying a scarf at a earlier competitors in Moscow, the place she took a bronze medal.
Rekabi didn’t placed on a hijab throughout Sunday’s closing on the Worldwide Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asia Championship.
Rekabi wore a hijab throughout her preliminary appearances on the one-week climbing occasion. She wore only a black headband when competing Sunday, her darkish hair pulled again in a ponytail; she had a white jersey with Iran’s flag as a emblem on it.
Footage of the competitors confirmed Rekabi relaxed as she approached the climbing and after she competed.
Iranian ladies competing overseas beneath the Iranian flag at all times put on the hijab.
“Our understanding is that she is returning to Iran, and we’ll proceed to observe the scenario because it develops on her arrival,” the Worldwide Federation of Sport Climbing, which oversaw the occasion, stated in an announcement. “It is very important stress that athletes’ security is paramount for us and we assist any efforts to maintain a valued member of our group secure on this scenario.”
The federation stated it had been in contact with each Rekabi and Iranian officers, however declined to elaborate on the substance of these calls when reached by The Related Press. The federation additionally declined to debate the Instagram publish attributed to Rekabi and the claims in it.
South Korea’s Overseas Ministry acknowledged the departures of the Iranian athlete and her group from the nation with out elaborating. On Wednesday, a small group of protesters demonstrated in entrance of Iran’s Embassy in Seoul, with some ladies chopping off locks of their hair like others have in demonstrations worldwide since Amini’s dying.
To date, human rights teams estimate that over 200 folks have been killed within the protests and the violent safety pressure crackdown that adopted. Iran has not supplied a dying toll in weeks. Demonstrations have been seen in over 100 cities, based on the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Hundreds are believed to have been arrested.
Gathering details about the demonstrations stays troublesome, nevertheless. Web entry has been disrupted for weeks by the Iranian authorities. In the meantime, authorities have detained not less than 40 journalists, based on the Committee to Defend Journalists.
Iranian officers, together with Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly alleged the nation’s international enemies are behind the continuing demonstrations, reasonably than Iranians angered by Amini’s dying and the nation’s different woes.
Iranians have seen their life financial savings evaporate; the nation’s foreign money, the rial, plummeted and Tehran’s nuclear take care of world powers has been lowered to tatters.
Related Press author Ahn Younger-joon in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Observe Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.
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