Elnaz Rakabi, the Iranian climber who competed without the Islamic headscarf in an international competition in Seoul last Sunday, is returning to Tehran two days ahead of schedule, according to the Iranian embassy in South Korea. The regime of the Islamic country reportedly confiscated her passport in Seoul, according to the president of the mountaineering federation, Reza Zarei. The host of the BBC’s World Service, Rana Rahimpour, said on Twitter that Rekabi is on a flight back to her country and that “there are concerns about her safety.”
IranWire, a small news agency opposed to the regime, on Monday reported that the athlete “will be directly transferred to Evin prison from the airport,” citing unnamed sources. The agency said that Rakabi had been tricked into walking into the Iranian embassy in Seoul with promises of safe passage back to Iran.
The official account of the Iranian embassy in South Korea said that Rekabi “departed from Seoul to Iran, early in the morning of October 18, 2022, together with the other members of the team.” The statement rejected “false information” regarding the potential arrest of the Iranian athlete.
Iran has been rocked by protests following the death in police custody of a young woman named Mahsa Amini, who was arrested last month for not wearing the hijab correctly. Since then, Iran has been experiencing the most serious unrest in three years, as street demonstrations continue to take place and support campaigns are organized on social media. The protests have led to a crackdown and more deaths at the hands of the Iranian police. On Monday, the European Union added 11 more individuals and four entities to its list of sanctions over the crackdown. The measures include a travel ban and asset freeze.
The Iranian service of the BBC has contacted friends of the climber, and these sources indicate that they have not been able to speak with her since the day of the competition at the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asian Championships in Seoul. These same sources added that in addition to her passport, her cellphone appears to also have been confiscated.