Monday, December 5

The climber Elnaz Rekabi, received at the Tehran airport by dozens of people shouting “champion”

The Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi was received this Wednesday shouting “champion” by dozens of people waiting for her at the Tehran airport, after competing in South Korea without a veil, mandatory by law in Iran, in apparent support of the protests in the Persian country.

Concern for Elnaz Rekabi: Iranian climber who competed without headscarf says it was ‘involuntary’

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“Elnaz, champion,” shouted dozens of people to applause as the 33-year-old climber left the Imam Khomeini International Airport at dawn, according to videos shared on social media by activists.

The athlete has also been received by her family, who hugged her for a long time, after having expressed fears for her safety after competing in the Asian Climbing Championship held in South Korea without a veil and with a ponytail in the air during the weekend.

Covered in a veil and black cap, the climber has claimed to feel “stressed” and “tense” on her return to the country, and has repeated the apologies she offered in a strange Instagram post about the lack of a hijab. “I was busy putting on my shoes and gear, and that made me forget to put on my headscarf,” she told the state-run IRNA agency at the airport.

Women’s protests in Iran

The climber’s gesture has been seen as a brave show of support for the women of her country who have been protesting for weeks against the mandatory wearing of the veil after the death in September of the young Mahsa Amini, arrested for improperly wearing the veil.

Before her arrival in Iran, the Iranian embassy in Seoul had denied “all false news and misinformation” related to the athlete, who, according to media such as the BBC, had had her passport and phone taken away.

The protests unleashed by the death of Amini on September 16 are mainly led by young people and women shouting “woman, life, freedom”, who launch slogans against the Government and burn veils, one of the symbols of the Islamic Republic and something unthinkable not long ago.

The protests have been evolving as the authorities have reacted: they began with medium mobilizations in dozens of cities to go to the universities, and from them to small concentrations, sporadic and scattered through the streets, to return to the faculties.

The NGO Iran Human Rights, based in Oslo, has recorded 108 deaths, including 23 minors, aged 11 to 17. In addition, there are thousands of detainees, including former soccer players, activists, lawyers and singers, some of whom have been released on bail.