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Family Home of Iranian Climber Elnaz Rekabi Destroyed, News Outlet Says

Footage identified of the family home shows the demolished structure. Rekabi became a symbol of the anti-regime protests after competing without her hijab.

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The family home of Elnaz Rekabi—who competed without her hijab at the Asian Continental Championships in October—has been destroyed according to IranWire, a pro-reform media source. A video has reportedly circulated showing footage of climbing medals among the ruins.

Days after the competition, Rekabi told Iranian state media that competing without her hijab was “inadvertent.” However, given Iran’s history of punishing dissenters, many believe her statements were made under duress.

Rekabi was reported missing following the final day of the competition in South Korea on October 16. Concerns for her safety mounted when, three days later, she returned to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport apologizing to state reporters. Reports emerged that she was then placed under house arrest. She last made a statement on social media in October, thanking the people of Iran for their support.

Protests broke out across Iran in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested for breaching the Islamic dress code, and three days later she died in custody. Public outrage erupted, fueling a protest turned revolution led, possibly for the first time in history, by women. The people of Iran are demanding regime change and freedom to live their lives with dignity and democracy.

According to the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), more than 400 protestors have been killed, at least 58 of which were minors. At least 16,813 protesters have been arrested, including 524 students.

Historically, many dissenting athletes and political figures have defected to other countries to avoid punishment. According to IranWire, a news outlet that focuses on documenting human rights abuses in Iran, Rekabi was forced to hand over a $35,000 check and house titles to Iran’s Mountaineering Federation prior to leaving for the Seoul competition as a guarantee she would come back. Rekabi’s brother, Davood—a sport climbing champion himself, was arrested before Elnaz returned to Iran. Upon her return, the two appeared before state cameras repeating their statements of apology. 

The footage of the family home was obtained by CNN from IranWire. It shows the demolished structure, and a clip of Davood crying. It is not clear when the demolition took place. According to the Tasnim News Agency, it happened before Rekabi competed in October.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian women have been allowed to compete only under the stipulation that they wear a hijab. Rekabi is believed among the first women to break the rule. She has been competing in international climbing competitions since 2007, placing as high as second in the 2013 Asian Continental Championships in bouldering, first in the 2017 Wanxianshan, China Asia Cup, also in bouldering, and, in this recent Asian Continental Championships, in Korea, fourth in the combined bouldering and lead category.

Climbing will continue to monitor the situation. We contacted dozens of professional climbers and industry leaders asking for their support in a statement of solidarity. You can read the statement here.