Iran demolishes family home of climber who competed without a hijab

Undated video shows brother of Elnaz Rekabi sobbing next to ruins of house; anti-government activists claim it was punitive action, authorities say it didn’t have proper permits

Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competes during the women's IFSC Climbing Asian Championships in Seoul, South Korea, October 16, 2022. (Rhea Khang/International Federation of Sport Climbing via AP)
Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competes during the women's IFSC Climbing Asian Championships in Seoul, South Korea, October 16, 2022. (Rhea Khang/International Federation of Sport Climbing via AP)

Iranian state media announced Saturday that the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian female rock climber who competed abroad with her hair uncovered, had been demolished.

Rekabi became a symbol of the anti-government movement in October after competing in a rock climbing competition in South Korea without wearing a mandatory headscarf required of female athletes from the Islamic Republic. In an Instagram post the following day, Rekabi described not wearing a hijab as “unintentional,” but it remains unclear whether she wrote the post herself and if she did, what condition she was in at the time.

Rekabi was later placed under house arrest and according to reports, her brother was also detained for a period of time. The BBC has cited unnamed sources saying that her apology was forced.

Iran’s official judiciary news agency, Mizan, said the destruction of the home was due to its “unauthorized construction and use of land,” adding that the demolition had taken place months before Rekabi competed.

Anti-government activists have disputed this, arguing that it was a targeted demolition.

A video circulating on social media last week showed ruins of a house with medals on the ground. Rekabi’s brother, Davood — himself a medal-winning competitive climber — was seen crying in the footage. It was not clear when the video was taken.

Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody September 16, three days after her arrest by the morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating.

In a statement issued by the state-run IRNA news agency Saturday, the country’s national security council announced that some 200 people have been killed during the protests, the body’s first official word on the casualties. Last week, Iranian general Amir Ali Hajizadeh tallied the death toll at more than 300.

The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a US-based organization that has been closely monitoring the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that 469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed.

Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities. The group was established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.

In a report published late Saturday by IRNA, Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohamed Jafar Montazeri, said the morality police had been ‘‘closed.’’ He provided no further details about the state of the force, or if its closure was widespread and permanent.

“The judiciary continues to monitor behavioral actions at the community level,” Montazeri added.

AP contributed to this report.

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