The president of Iran’s national Olympic committee claimed Thursday that an Iranian competitive climber who had participated in an event without wearing her country’s mandatory headscarf will not be penalized.
Speaking to The Associated Press in the South Korean capital of Seoul, Mahmoud Khosravi Vafa said there was no reason to take disciplinary measures against 33-year-old competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi, because not wearing a headscarf, or hijab, was an “unintentional” act on her part.
“It’s a small issue. I’m surprised that it is being talked about so much,” Vafa said. “In our view, it was not a big issue.”
Rekabi returned to Tehran on Wednesday morning after competing at the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asia Championship in South Korea without wearing a hijab, which is required of female athletes from the Islamic Republic.
Rekabi, 33, was met at Imam Khomeini International Airport by people cheering and shouting, “Hero!” at her taxi as she rode through the massive crowds around 5 a.m., video on Twitter showed.
Following the event, an Instagram account associated with Rekabi also described the decision as “unintentional,” adding that she is doing well after reaching Tehran on Wednesday.
“I talked to her and told her that you definitely are very talented in sports and you should continue down this path to maybe qualify for the Paris Olympics, and you’ll be fully supported by the Iranian Olympic committee,” he added in remarks made in Farsi.
The International Olympic Committee described Rekabi on Wednesday as having “returned to Iran safely and with her family.”
Khosravi Vafa, however, described Rekabi as being “a guest at Iran’s Olympic committee hotel for one day, along with her family.” It wasn’t clear whether Rekabi had a choice over the stay. A later image published by Iranian state media showed her in a meeting hours after returning to Tehran in the same black baseball cap and hoodie she wore after her flights.
Persian language Manoto TV, citing Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps sources, reported that Rekabi’s brother had been arrested following a complaint to them by the Iranian Olympic boss, Khosravi Vafa.
Rekabi’s supporters remain concerned about potential retribution against Rekabi after deadly clashes between Iranian protesters and the government have broken out in recent weeks following the death 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in Iran after being arrested for improperly wearing a headscarf. It has been reported that as many as 200 people have been killed in those protests.
“Quite typical of the regime in Iran to not be transparent about punishments, particularly when one is charged with disrespecting the Islamic Republic,” Lisa Daftari, editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital. “In this case, on the one hand, you have the regime saying there will be no punishment, but then they have allegedly arrested her brother. We see this quite often when the regime either goes after forced confessions or targets family members in order to make a point and to discourage others from disrespecting the regime.”
Iran has been accused of targeting athletes in the past, including recently seizing the passport of a soccer star, prompting calls from some athletic organizations to sanction the country’s participation in various sporting events.
“FIFA has banned Russia from participating in international competitions because of its invasion of Ukraine and its violation of human rights. We respect this stance that FIFA has taken and that it will not tolerate the senseless killing and torturing of thousands of innocent civilians. We Iranian athletes ask that you apply the same to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian diaspora athletic organization, United for Navid, wrote to the International Federation of Association Football earlier this month.
The sports organization added “Iran is brutally killing and torturing protestors and is oppressing women by criminalizing watching football [soccer] or showing a few strands of hair. FIFA’s silence is an endorsement of these human rights violations.”
In 2020, the Iran government executed a decorated wrestler who had participated in anti-government protests.
The incident with Rekabi was reminiscent of a similar instance in China this year, when Chinese Olympic athlete Peng Shuai disappeared after accusing a Chinese government official of sexual assault.
Shuai later made multiple public appearances that many believe were coerced and, like Rekabi, downplayed the controversy publicly after the fact.
Fox News’ Elizabeth Pritchett and Associated Press contributed to this report
Today Breeze.in is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by . The content will be deleted within 24 hours.