Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, who caused controversy by competing in an international tournament without a headscarf, has returned to Iran to the cheers of her fans, reiterating in comments to state media that climbed without the hijab inadvertently.
Video footage showed Rekabi, 33, scaling a wall without her head covered while competing in South Korea on behalf of Iran, a country that has been swept up in protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. country morale.
Speaking to state television upon his arrival in Tehran, Rekabi said he had returned in “full health” and apologized to the “people of Iran for the turbulence and concerns I have created,” wearing a baseball cap and a hood while speaking.
“The struggle I had with the shoes and the preparation of my equipment made me forget the proper hijab that I had to have, and I went to the wall and climbed,” he added.
A crowd of supporters cheered, applauded and filmed the scene with mobile phones as she walked away from the airport, according to images posted on the social network Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ).
In a statement posted to her Instagram account on Tuesday, Rekabi blamed poor scheduling for the reason she competed without a headscarf, saying she was called to climb unexpectedly.
In televised comments, Rekabi, who placed fourth in the competition, denied that she had been unreachable for 48 hours and said the team returned to Iran as scheduled. She stated that she does not plan to leave the national team.
The BBC’s Persian-language service had reported on Tuesday that friends were unable to contact Rekabi, saying there were fears for her safety. The Iranian embassy in South Korea denied on Twitter the reports about his disappearance after the competition.
Amini died last month while in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s morality police, who detained her on charges of “inappropriate dress”, sparking protests across the country in which scores of women removed their headscarves and they burned them.
The protests sparked by Amini’s death have become one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, although the riots do not appear close to overthrowing the ayatollahs’ regime.