A climber from Iran who participated in an international competition but didn’t wear a hijab claimed it was completely accidental.
Female athletes of the Islamic Republic must wear the hijab. However, at the event in South Korea, SundayElnazRekabi didn’t wear one.
It comes after a spate of protests in Iran that began over the past month, which was sparked by the murder of Mahsa who was held by the country’s morality police for her clothes.
Women in Iran have been taking off their hijabs since the death of the 22-year old to show solidarity.
These demonstrations pose the greatest threat to Iran’s democracy since the protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Ms. Rekabi, who received a warm welcome upon her return to Iran Wednesday, told a state television reporter that she wanted to explain the situation. “Everything conforms to what was explained online. It was totally unintentional. This is what my Instagram story (and I believe it) explains.
“I was called unexpectedly and had to compete. I was too busy with technical gear and putting on shoes, and I forgot to put on my hijab. Then, I went to compete.
“Fortunately, I returned to Iran with peace of heart, even though I experienced a lot tension and stress. But, so far, thank God for nothing.”
The reporter asked Ms Rekabi about rumours that nobody knew her whereabouts for 24 to 48 hours. She replied, “No. This did not happen. According to the plan, we returned to Iran. Everything has been going according to plan until this point.”
On Tuesday, an Instagram account that was attributed to the athlete described her decision not to wear a hijab accidentally. However, it wasn’t clear if she wrote it.
Iran’s government regularly pressures activists both at home and abroad. Rights groups often describe these as forced confessions broadcast on state television.
Instagram posted a pleading apology for making “everybody worried” and stated: “Because it was busy putting my shoes and gear, it caused my to forget to put my hijab before I went to compete.
Online video showed large crowds at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, which is the main exit point for the sanctioned country.
The 33-year old athlete was filmed walking into the airport terminals wearing a black baseball cap with a black hoodie. An onlooker gave her flowers.
She entered a van outside and was slowly driven through the crowd cheering her on. It was not clear where she went afterwards.
Rekabi’s friend, a former member of the national team for ice climbing, has expressed concern to her.
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 to Iran.”