An Iranian climber who participated in an international competition without wearing a hijab insisted it was “completely involuntary”.
The wearing of the hijab is compulsory for female athletes from the Islamic Republic, but in the event in South Korea on Sunday Elnaz Rekabi did not use one.
It follows a wave of protests in Iran over the past month that were sparked by the death of mahsa amini who was arrested by the country’s moral police for her clothes.
Since the 22-year-old’s death, women in Iran have been removing their hijab in public to defend themselves.
The demonstrations represent the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since the mass protests surrounding the disputed 2009 presidential election.
After receiving a hero’s welcome upon her return to Iran on Wednesday, Ms. Rekabi told a state television reporter: “If I want to explain, I have to say that everything conforms to what I explained on the Internet. It was completely unintentional.” I think my (Instagram) story fully explains this.
“I got called out unexpectedly and had to compete. I was busy putting on my shoes and technical equipment and that made me forget to put on the hijab I had to wear. Then I went to compete.”
“Fortunately, I returned to Iran with a calm mind, although I went through a lot of tension and stress, so far, thank God, nothing has happened.”
When the reporter told her about the rumors that no one knew of her whereabouts for 24 to 48 hours, Ms. Rekabi replied, “No. This did not happen. We returned to Iran according to plan. Until now, everything has gone well.” “. according to the plan”.
An Instagram post on an account attributed to the athlete on Tuesday described her not wearing a hijab as accidental, though it was unclear if she wrote it.
The Iranian government routinely pressures activists at home and abroad, often airing what human rights groups describe as coerced confessions on state television.
The post that appeared on Instagram apologized for “concerning everyone” and explained, “Because I was busy putting on my shoes and equipment, I forgot to put on my hijab and then went to compete.”
Video shared online appeared to show large crowds gathering early Wednesday at Imam Khomeini International Airport on the outskirts of Tehran, the sanctioned nation’s main gateway out of the country.
Rekabi’s bravery inspires protesters to continue
The worst was feared for Elnaz Rekabi when her family lost contact with her and she was then put on an early flight back to Tehran, but thousands of people gathered at Imam Kohimeni airport welcomed her home like a hero, in scenes extraordinary this morning. .
She is anything but a hero in the eyes of the Iranian regime and could still face retaliation for competing without a head covering, but her new status has given her international recognition and thus, perhaps, some protection from heavy-handed repression. .
Most do not believe the excuse she gave on Instagram and in an interview, that her hijab “inadvertently” fell off while competing, but instead believe that it was given to her under some sort of duress from her keepers. The language used in his social media post bears similarities to forced apologies in previous cases.
As widespread and popular as it is, the Iranian uprising, now in its fifth week, so far lacks any form of leader to coordinate the protests and directly challenge the government; Elnaz Rekabi may not be that figurehead, but he is part of the cause, and his bravery has apparently given protesters inspiration and courage to continue.
The 33-year-old athlete was seen walking towards one of the airport terminals, filmed by state television cameras, and wearing a black baseball cap and a black hoodie that covered her hair. She received flowers from a spectator.
Outside, she apparently got into a van and was led slowly through the gathered, cheering crowd. It was not clear where she went after that.
A friend and former member of the national ice climbing team has said she is “very worried” about Rekabi.
In a statement shared on Instagram, Zeinab Moosavi said: “Considering all the events that have happened, all of Iran and the world are concerned about Elnaz’s condition after his arrival in Iran.
JAKARTA: The giant dome of the Jakarta Islamic Center Grand Mosque in Indonesia collapsed on Wednesday after a major fire broke out.
Dramatic footage from social media showed the moment the mosque’s dome collapsed, however authorities said there were no casualties, reported Gulf Today.
The dome was destroyed by fire during its renovation. Firefighters were alerted to the fire shortly after 3 pm local time, and at least 10 fire trucks were dispatched to the scene, Indonesian media reported.
Indonesia: Giant dome of Jakarta’s Islamic center, the Grand Mosque, collapses after fire
Video footage showed flames and smoke rising from the mosque’s dome just before it collapsed.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Media reports suggest that the Islamic Center was undergoing renovations at the time.
No one was injured in the fire or the collapse that followed. Local media added that police are investigating the cause of the fire and have questioned contractors working on the building, Gulf Today reported.
In addition to the mosque, the Islamic Center complex also houses educational, commercial, and research facilities.
The mosque’s dome last caught fire during renovations almost exactly 20 years ago, with the October 2002 fire taking five hours to extinguish, reported Gulf Today.