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Iranian climber applauds supporters after competing without hijab

TEHRAN: Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian climber, received a hero’s welcome upon her return to Tehran last week after competing without a hijab in South Korea. She thanked her followers both domestically and internationally for their support.

During a competition event at the Asian Championships in Seoul last Sunday, Rekabi, 33, wore only a headband instead of the headscarf that the Islamic republic’s dress rules require all Iranian women, including female athletes competing abroad, to wear. The Islamic republic’s dress rules require all Iranian women to wear a headscarf.

Some people interpreted this action as a show of solidarity with the weeks of demonstrations that have taken place in Iran in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, who was 22 years old and had been arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaking Iran’s dress code.

In her first comments made on social media since arriving back in Iran, Rekabi expressed her gratitude to everyone who had come to the airport to see her, telling them, “I love you.”

On Wednesday, the climber was greeted with cheers and claps by dozens of people when they arrived at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

“I am endlessly grateful for the support of you, all the people of Iran, the most decent people of the planet, athletes and non-athletes, and all your support in (the) international community,” Rekabi said on her Instagram account during the overnight hours of Friday. “I am endlessly grateful for the support of you, all the people of Iran, the most decent people of the planet, athletes, and non-athletes.”

She wrote in both Persian and English that “everything I have gained till now was related to the caring of you wonderful souls,” and the post was published in both languages.

A passage by the late Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, which was read by Rekab at the beginning of his message, made reference to the fact that people live as a part of a community. She ended her letter with the words “Me; the people, Iran.”

In comments made to state media upon her return, the athlete expressed her regret for the incident and stated that her headscarf had come off due to an unfortunate accident.

Rekabi was welcomed by the Minister of Sports, Hamid Sajjadi, many hours after her arrival. Concern has been voiced by rights organizations located outside of the nation for her well-being.

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