Salem Radio Network News Saturday, November 26, 2022

World

Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi cheered by fans on return to Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, who caused controversy by competing in an international contest without a veil, has returned to Iran to cheering supporters, reiterating in comments to state media she had climbed without a hijab unintentionally.

Footage had shown Rekabi, 33, scaling a wall without her head covered while competing in South Korea while representing Iran, which has been swept by protests ignited by Mahsa Amini’s death in morality police custody.

In comments to state TV upon her arrival in Tehran, Rekabi said she apologised “to the Iranian people for causing tension”, her head covered by a baseball cap and a hood as she spoke.

A crowd of well-wishers cheered, clapped and recorded the scene on mobile phones as she was driven away from the airport, according to footage posted on Twitter.

In a statement published on her Instagram account on Tuesday, Rekabi cited poor scheduling as the reason she had competed without a headscarf, saying she had been called to climb unexpectedly.

Rekabi, who came fourth in the competition, described her return to Iran as “peaceful” and said she was in “good health”. She said she had no plan to quit the national team.

BBC Persian had reported on Tuesday that friends had been unable to contact her, and there were fears for her safety. Iran’s embassy in South Korea, on Twitter, denied reports about her going missing after the competition.

Amini died last month while in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s morality police who detained her for “inappropriate attire”, prompting nationwide protests during which women have removed and burned headscarves.

The protests ignited by Amini’s death have grown into one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, though the unrest does not appear close to toppling the system.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Tom Perry, William Maclean)

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