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Climbing-Iran’s Rekabi competes in first tournament since headscarf controversy

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(Reuters) – Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi participated in a women’s boulder World Cup event in Brixen, Italy on Friday, her first tournament since she competed in an international contest without a headscarf last year.

In October, Rekabi competed in South Korea without a headscarf, later saying she had done so unintentionally.

The incident occurred at a time of unprecedented protests in Iran over the death in custody of a young woman detained by morality police for “inappropriate attire”.

According to reports in Iranian media, Rekabi was only allowed to travel to Italy this week after providing a financial guarantee to the country’s Ministry of Sports and Youth.

On Friday, Rekabi, who won bronze in the women’s combined event at the 2021 IFSC Climbing World Championships, finished tied-41st in Brixen, missing the cut for the semi-finals.

The event served as part of the qualifying process for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

The protests in Iran marked one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s leadership since its 1979 revolution and drew in Iranians from all walks of life.

Women played a prominent role, removing and in some cases burning headscarves, while protesters took heart from what they saw as shows of support from both female and male Iranian athletes.

In November, an Iranian archer said she did not notice her hijab falling during an awards ceremony in Tehran, after a video appeared to show her allowing the headscarf to drop in what was also widely assumed to be a show of support for protesters.

Several national sports teams have refrained from singing the national anthem, notably before Iran’s opening match at the soccer World Cup.

In December, Iranian chess player Sara Khadem reportedly competed in an international tournament without a hijab.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Nashik, India; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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