Elnaz Rekabi wore no headscarf to compete in the world championships

Iranian sport climber Elnaz Rekabi returns to Tehran after competing without wearing required hijab

Iranian sport climber Elnaz Rekabi returns to Tehran after competing without wearing required hijab

Photo by Vahid Sarzini

Elnaz Rekabi took to the slopes of Masjed-e-Boharchi in the southern Iranian city of Kermanshah on Sunday to compete on the world stage.

But she did it without wearing a headscarf.

The 16-year-old’s decision to compete in the world championships in Iran, despite the requirement her hijab cover her hair, has sparked anger and a debate about whether this reflects the true nature of Iran’s Islamic republic.

Last summer, Rekabi participated in the international youth championships for the first time after gaining the attention of Iran’s national sports association and the Iranian Olympic Committee.

She said that for her, the idea of taking on the world’s best by wearing no hijab and competing, instead of studying, was a way to challenge the system.

“I think I am a very unique child and I always have had this dream about competing with the best in the world with no hijab,” she said in a video posted on social media.

The headscarf, which is mandatory for women to wear in Iran, covers the entire face.

Elnaz said she saw an opportunity to challenge the system during a training camp at Iran’s national military academy, where she said she saw more women wearing the garment.

“They are not only wearing it in their own clothes, but they are also pulling it up in their hair,” she said.

Iranian sports associations have previously said that their female athletes should not take part in competitions if they did not want their faces covered.

A sports news website quoted Rekabi as saying, “If you want to compete with the best in the world, then cover your face. Cover your face! I have to cover it on purpose.”

‘Not right for Iran’

Reza Zandian, an Iranian-American professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, said it was a “regrettable and very shortsighted decision” for Elnaz to compete without hijab.

“She risks alienating half of her audience and the rest of the world with this decision,” he said, adding that wearing the headscarf was

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