Iran has destroyed a villa belonging to a family member of the Iranian rock climber who competed in an overseas competition without her headscarf, a video appears to show.
In the undated video, the brother of Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi, who is also an athlete, is seen sobbing by the ruins of a home, with sports medals strewn on the ground.
Elnaz Rekabi and her brother Davoud were both reportedly arrested following Ms Rekabi’s return to Iran following the tournament in South Korea in October in which she competed without a headscarf.
Many took the athlete’s move as a sign of solidarity for the nationwide protests in her homeland sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.
The ruins of the home of Davoud Rekabi are seen the undated video, following the razing of his home allegedly for permit violations
Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competes during the women boulder finals of the Asian Championships of the IFSC in Seoul, South Korea on October 16, 2022
Davoud Rekabi, the brother of Elnaz Rekabi, poses in an undated photo. He was reported arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022
According to local media, the villa was not demolished as an act of retaliation against Ms Rekabi’s appearance in South Korea.
The Tasnim news agency said that the house was razed by authorities before Ms Rekabi took place in the South Korea competition, adding that Mr Rekabi didn’t hold the correct permit for its construction.
Ms Rekabi posted a suspicious apology video on her Instagram Stories saying the hijab dropped by mistake and she was returning home, with the athlete and her brother both allegedly detained shortly afterwards.
After arriving at the Imam Khomeini International Airport outside of Tehran, she repeated the explanation posted earlier to Instagram that described her not wearing a hijab as ‘unintentional.’
The Iranian government routinely pressures activists at home and abroad, often airing what human rights groups describe as coerced confessions on state television – the same cameras she addressed on her arrival back home.
Video shared online showed large crowds gathered to greet her at the airport, with fans offering cheers.
She walked into one of the airport’s terminals, filmed by state media and wearing a black baseball cap and a black hoodie covering her hair.
Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi speaks to journalists upon her arrival at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, Iran, on October 19, 2022
Ms Rekabi gives an interview upon her arrival at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on October 19, 2022
Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, wearing a bandana, competes during the women boulder finals of the Asian Championships of the IFSC in Seoul, South Korea on October 16, 2022
She received flowers from an onlooker and then repeated what had been posted on Instagram that not wearing the hijab was ‘unintentional’ and her travel had been as previously planned.
‘Because I was busy putting on my shoes and my gear, it caused me to forget to put on my hijab and then I went to compete,’ she said to state media reporters.
She added: ‘I came back to Iran with peace of mind, although I had a lot of tension and stress. But so far, thank God, nothing has happened.’
She continued: ‘I returned to Iran peacefully, in perfect health and according to the predetermined plan. I apologize to the people of Iran because of the tensions created,’ she said, adding she had ‘no plan to say goodbye to the national team.’
Outside, she appeared to enter a van and was driven through the gathered crowds, who cheered her. It wasn’t clear where she went after that.
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 upon her arrival.
Following her alleged disappearance and arrest following her return from Seoul, a source told IranWire: ‘Elnaz made her decision to appear without a hijab around a month ago and knew that she was going to compete without the mandatory hijab
‘She did not seek asylum either because her husband is in Iran, and she wanted to return after the competition. She always makes such bold decisions.’
Reza Zarei, the head of Iran’s Climbing Federation, allegedly tricked her into the Iranian embassy in Seoul after receiving orders from Mohammad Khosravivafa, Iran’s Olympic Committee chairman.
Khosravivafa had in turn received orders from the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and promised her safe return to Iran to lure her into the embassy building.
A handout picture provided by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) shows Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, wearing a bandana, competing during the women boulder finals of the Asian Championships of the IFSC in Seoul, South Korea on October 16, 2022
Elnaz Rekabi, 33, an Iranian climber, competes in public without wearing a hijab during the International Federation of Sport Climbing Asian Championships final in South Korea’s capital Seoul on October 16, 2022
Elnaz Rekabi, 33, an Iranian climber, poses in an undated photo. Rekabi competed in public without wearing a hijab during the International Federation of Sport Climbing Asian Championships final in South Korea’s capital Seoul on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022
Zarei, an ex-member of the Ministry of Information, said Elnaz could make her journey away from the public eye if she handed over her passport and phone.
But her secret journey means no supporters gathered at the airport to protest her arrest.
Fans became suspicious after the athlete’s family and friends were unable to contact her the day after the competition.
The embassy said in a statement she had already left South Korea, and rubbished concerns for her wellbeing.