The family home of a female rock climber has been destroyed in Iran after she competed in a tournament in South Korea without a head scarf in October. Concerns grew for Elnaz Rekabi, 33, after she chose not to wear a hijab amid protests in her home country. Wearing a hijab is mandatory for women in Iran but hundreds have taken to the streets in protest of the rule in recent weeks following the death of a girl in police custody.
In an undated video, the brother of Ms Rekabi, himself an athlete, is seen sobbing by the ruins of a home with medals on the ground.
Ms Rekabi, 33, and her brother Davoud were both reportedly arrested after Ms Rekabi’s return to Iran following the tournament in South Korea.
Many took the move as a sign of solidarity for nationwide protests in her homeland sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
According to local media, the villa was not demolished as an act of retaliation against Ms Rekabi’s appearance in South Korea.
The Tasnim news agency said the house was raided by authorities before Ms Rekabi took part in the competition, adding Mr Rekabi did not hold the correct permit for its construction.
Ms Rekabi posted a suspicious apology video on her Instagram Stories saying the hijab dropped by mistake and she was returning home, with the athlete and her brother both allegedly detained shortly afterward.
After arriving at the Imam Khomeini International Airport outside of Tehran, she repeated the explanation that described her not wearing a hijab as “unintentional”.
The Iranian government routinely pressures activists at home and abroad, often airing what rights groups describe as coerced confessions on state television.
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Videos showed crowds arriving at the aiport to greet the athlete, with fans cheering as she walked through the gates.
She was filmed wearing a black baseball cap and black hoodie to cover her hair.
“Because I was busy putting on my shoes and my gear, it caused me to forget to put on my hijab and then I went to compete,” she told state media reporters.
She added: “I came back to Iran with peace of mind, although I had a lot of tension and stress. But so far, thank God, nothing has happened. I returned to Iran peacefully, in perfect health and according to the predetermined plan. I apologise to the people of Iran because of the tensions created,’ adding she had ‘no plan to say goodbye to the national team”.
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The BBC’s Persian service, which has extensive contacts within Iran despite being banned from operating there, quoted an unnamed “informed source” who described Iranian officials as seizing both Rekabi’s mobile phone and passport upon her arrival.
After her alleged disappearance and arrest following her return from Seoul, a source told IranWire: “Elnaz made her decision to appear without a hijab around a month ago and knew that she was going to compete without the mandatory hijab.
“She did not seek asylum either because her husband is in Iran, and she wanted to return after the competition. She always makes such bold decisions.”
Fans became suspicious after family and friends struggled to contact the professional climber.