Crowds cheer Iranian climber who competed without hijab

A cheering crowd gathered at the Teheran airport early Wednesday morning to welcome home climber Elnaz Rekabi from her competition in South Korea.

Rekabi became a celebrity in Iran after she participated in the event without wearing her nation’s mandatory headscarf covering. The International Federation of Sport Climbing said Rekabi wore a hijab during her initial appearances at the one-week climbing event. She wore just a black headband in Sunday’s final.

Her action came in the wake of nationwide protests over the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who was detained by Iranian morality police over her clothing.

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An Instagram post on an account attributed to Rekabi described her not wearing a hijab as ‘unintentional,’ though it wasn’t immediately clear whether she wrote the post or what condition she was in at the time.

Rekabi was on Iran’s 11-member delegation, comprised of eight athletes and three coaches, to the event, according to the IFSC.

Media from outside Iran had expressed concern that Rekabi could have been arrested when she returned home. However, Iranian officials denied those claims.

So far, human rights groups estimate that over 200 people have been killed in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed. Iran has not offered a death toll in weeks. Demonstrations have been seen in over 100 cities, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Thousands are believed to have been arrested.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY