Iranian climber claims lack of hijab was an accident after hero’s welcome

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Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi has claimed that competing without a hijab was “completely unintentional” after receiving a hero’s welcome in her homeland.

Rekabi was widely lauded for a perceived act of defiance when becoming only the second Iranian woman in history to perform without the traditional headscarf required since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

She was called “daring,” “courageous,” and “powerful” when a video clip emerged from the International Federation of Sport Climbing Championships final in Seoul was circulated online.

But after weeks of protests in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police for violating Islamic dress code, there were fears that Rekabi could face possible repercussions.

She arrived in the capital Tehran to a hero’s welcome on Wednesday but attempted to play down the incident.

“If I want to explain I should say that everything conforms to what I explained on the internet. It was completely unintentional. I think my (Instagram) story fully explained this,” she said, in relation to a post on the social media platform.

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It described her not wearing the hijab as accidental and apologized for “getting everybody worried.”

“Because I was busy putting on my shoes and my gear, it caused me to forget to put on my hijab, and then I went to compete,” the post claimed.

Recalling the incident once more at Imam Khomeini International Airport, Rekabi 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,” Rekabi said.

When told by reporters there were rumors that she might not return home, like boxer Sadaf Khadem did in France after winning a 2019 boxing match without a hijab, Rekabi said: “No. This didn’t happen.”

“We came back to Iran according to the plan. Until this moment everything has been going on according to the plan,” she claimed.

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