Photo: Elnaz Rekabi in the Asian Championships. Credit: Youtube channel of IFSC.
The women’s movement in Iran had its moment in South Korea when Elnaz Rekabi, a 33-year-old rock climber, competed in the Asian Championships of the International Federation of Sports Climbing, held from October 10 to 16, without the hijab head scarf. In recent weeks, thousands of Iranian women had been protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of “morality police” that imposed mandatory hijab-wearing.
After coming in fourth in her event on October 16 with her hair exposed, Rekabi could not be contacted that evening as she reportedly was on a flight back to Tehran ahead of schedule. On her Instagram account on October 18, Rekabi said she had “returned with the team according to the predetermined schedule,” and later also suggested she competed without a hijab “accidentally.” Some have suggested that Rekabi made those comments under duress.