Concerns for Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi who competed without hijab

There are concerns for the wellbeing of Iranian sport climber Elna Rekabi, after she competed at an event in South Korea without her nation’s mandatory headscarf covering.

Rekabi left South Korea on Tuesday after coming fourth at the event, authorities said.

Farsi-language media outside of Iran warned she may have been forced to leave early by Iranian officials and faced arrest back home.

The decision by Rekabi, a multiple medallist in various competitions, to forgo the headscarf, or hijab, came as protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini entered their fifth week.

Ms Amini was detained by the country’s morality police over her clothing.

The demonstrations, drawing school-aged children, oil workers and others to the street, represent the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since the mass protests surrounding its disputed 2009 presidential election.

Rights groups say hundreds of people have been killed as authorities crack down on the protests. Amnesty International says at least 23 children have died.

Phone and passport reportedly seized

Rekabi left Seoul on a Tuesday morning flight, the Iranian embassy in South Korea said. The BBC’s Persian service, which has extensive contacts within Iran despite being banned from operating there, quoted an unnamed “informed source” who described Iranian officials as seizing both Rekabi’s mobile phone and passport.

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