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Iran Olympic chief says no punishment for climber who competed without hijab

A woman watches a screen displaying a video of Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competing without a hijab. (AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi will not be punished or suspended after competing without her hijab.

Additionally, Rekabi has reportedly “returned to Iran safely and with her family,” according to the International Olympic Committee. The president of Iran’s national Olympic committee, Mahmoud Khosravi Vafa, told the Associated Press on Thursday that there wasn’t any reason to take disciplinary action against Rekabi.

Additionally, Khosravi Vafa said that Rekabi was “a guest at Iran’s Olympic committee hotel for one day, along with her family.” Iranian state media later published an image of Rekabi in a meeting, hours after her return. Khosravi Vafa said Rekabi is returning to her hometown on Thursday.

He called it an “unintentional” act on her part, echoing a statement issued by an Instagram account associated with Rekabi.

On the account, Rekabi said she was rushed to compete and forgot her hijab. Some thought that the statement was posted by someone other than Rekabi.

However, she reiterated the statement upon her arrival at the airport.

“It’s a small issue. I’m surprised that it is being talked about so much,” Khosravi Vafa said. “In our view it was not a big issue.”

Khosravi Vafa said that he had discussed the climber with IOC president Thomas Bach. He also said he had spoken with Rekabi.

“I talked to her and told her that you definitely are very talented in sports and you should continue down this path to maybe qualify for the Paris Olympics and you’ll be fully supported by the Iranian Olympic committee,” Khosravi Vafa said.

He did not address reports that Iranian authorities had seized Rekabi’s passport and forced her to leave early.

Protests over hijab laws have occurred in more than 100 cities in Iran, after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested for wearing her hijab too loosely. She died on Sept. 16 while in police custody. While police have said she suffered a heart attack, Amini’s family has stated that she was healthy, and other reports have emerged claiming she was beaten by officials.