More Concerns grew on Tuesday over the well-being of Iranian sports climber Elnaz Rekabi after she competed at an event in South Korea without a hijab in what some saw as a gesture of solidarity with the women-led protests at home.
Rekabi, 33, in her first comment since the event at the Asian Championships in Seoul on Sunday, apologised on Instagram for the “concerns” caused and insisted her bare-headed appearance had been “unintentional”.
In the initial bouldering discipline her head was covered with a bandana but in the later lead climbing, scaling a high wall with a rope, she wore only a headband, the stream posted by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) showed.
This was in breach of the Islamic republic’s mandatory dress rules of compulsory headscarves for women which also apply to all female athletes, even when competing abroad.
The gesture came one month into protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested in Tehran for allegedly violating the dress rules.
Supporters of the protests on social media described Rekabi as a “hero”, posting images of her climbing up the letters of the protest slogan “Woman. Life. Freedom.”