Elnaz Rekabi has taken to her Instagram to clarify the rumors going around that she decided to compete without hijab in support of the Iranian protests.
According to 33-year-old Rekabi, the hijab accidentally came off due to the winds, while she was trying to climb the rock in the Asian championship in South Korea.
BBC Persian reported on Monday that friends had been unable to contact her. On Tuesday, the Instagram post apologised for “getting everybody worried” and said she was flying home.
The post on Instagram said:
“Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off.”
The post added that she was on her way back to Iran “alongside the team based on the pre-arranged schedule”.
Other Iranian women who have competed abroad without wearing a headscarf in the past have said they came under pressure from Iranian authorities to issue similar apologies, she adds. Some of them decided not to go back to Iran.
Women in the country are required to cover their hair with a hijab and their arms and legs with loose clothing. Female athletes must also abide by the dress code when they are officially representing Iran in competitions abroad.
The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) said it had been in contact with Ms Rekabi and the Iranian Climbing Federation, and that it was “trying to establish the facts”.
“It is important to stress that athletes’ safety is paramount for us and we support any efforts to keep a valued member of our community safe in this situation,” it added. “The IFSC fully support the rights of athletes, their choices, and expression of free speech.”
The protests were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by morality police in Tehran on 13 September for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.