People around the world are worried about the Iranian climbing champion Elnas Rekabi. According to media reports on Tuesday, the 33-year-old is on her way back to her home country. According to BBC information, your passport and mobile phone are said to have been confiscated, and there was also talk of an arrest. The Iranian embassy in Seoul categorically denied these reports. Rekabi and her team would fly back to Tehran as planned on Tuesday, it said.
Rekabi took off the headscarf that is mandatory for Iranian athletes in the final of the Asian Championships in Seoul. This was seen as a sign of their solidarity with the women’s movement in Iran and the protests against compulsory headscarves.
On Tuesday night, numerous Iranians flocked to the capital’s airport in Tehran to celebrate Rekabi as the new heroine of the women’s protests. But the roads to the airport were sealed off at night, and the police only allowed people with a valid flight ticket to continue their journey. This information has not yet been confirmed by the Iranian authorities.
Observers expect Rekabis to be excluded from the national team and be banned from leaving the country. Critics fear that Rekabi has been arrested and intimidated.
Since the nationwide protests broke out, several prominent athletes – including former soccer pros Ali Daei, Ali Karimi and Mehdi Mahdavikia – have criticized the system for its repression of women’s protests and announced their solidarity with the demonstrators.