Concerns are growing for an Iranian climber, who participated in an international competition while wearing a hijab.
According to Tehran reports, Elnaz Rezaib, 33, may have been forced to leave South Korea’s Asian Championships early. She could be arrested and transferred to prison as soon as she returns home.
Iran’s women must wear a hijab. This rule has been the subject of growing protests over the past month .
According to the Iranian Embassy in South Korea, Rekabi flew from Seoul on Tuesday morning.
Her passport and her mobile phone were believed to be seized by an “informed source”, who told journalists.
According to the BBC’s Persian service, her flight was apparently unexpectedly moved forward on Wednesday.
Rekabi posted an Instagram story that said she had “unintentionally” removed her hijab. She claimed she was speeding through the process, although footage shows her looking relaxed.
It says: “Greetings, all respectable and honorable citizens Iran.
Elnaz Rekabi, a 20-year veteran of national climbing, apologizes for any inconvenience caused. I must also announce that due to the already existing sensitivities at the Asian Championship final in South Korea, and the unsuitable timing and unexpected call for my climb of the wall, my cover became problematic.
“Right now, based on a prearranged timeline with the team. I am heading to Iran.”
A friend, who was a former member of the national team for ice climbing, said that she is concerned about Rekabi.
Zeinab Moosavi shared a statement on Instagram saying: “Considering all that has happened, all Iran and the whole world are concerned about Elnaz after her arrival in Iran.
“We can only pray for Elnaz and ask God to help us in this difficult situation.
Rekabi was also praised by Moosavi as a “brave, powerful girl”, adding that “a nation stands behind you”.
IranWire, another website, was also created by Maziar Bahari (an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was once held by the Iranian regime). It claimed that Rekabi would be transferred immediately to the notorious Evin Prison on her arrival.
A huge fire broke out at Tehran’s jail this week, where political prisoners such as Nazanin Zaghari Rahcliffe were being held.
In a tweet, the Iranian Embassy dismissed “fake News and Disinformation” about Rekabi’s departure.
It posted a photo of the athlete in a headscarf at another competition in Moscow where she won a bronze award.
International Federation of Sport Climbing stated that it is trying to determine the facts about Rekabi’s departure. It added: “Our understanding of her is that she is returning home to Iran. We will continue to monitor and report on the situation as it evolves upon her arrival.”
Rekabi participated in Sunday’s final of the Asia Championship in Seoul, traveling with an 11-strong team that included eight athletes and three coaches.
The footage of the event showed her wearing black hairband and her dark hair in a ponytail.
The Korea Alpine Federation in Seoul stated that she had worn a hijab at previous appearances.
Although there are no regulations requiring female athletes not to wear a head scarf, international competitions by Iranian women require them to have a hijab.
South Korea’s Justice Ministry stated that privacy regulations prevented it from commenting on Rekabi’s status in the country.
She previously won two bronze and one silver medals at the Asian Championships.
Fears about her whereabouts are heightened by violent protests that were sparked after the death of Mahsa went on for a fifth week.
The 22-year old was taken into custody by the morality police because he didn’t wear a hijab correctly. He died in custody in September. This led to international anger at the Iranian regime.
Children were among those who died during the demonstrations.