40 days of protests in Iran were documented on October 26, sparked by the death of Martha Amini, who was arrested by police called the Moral Police in Tehran on suspicion of improperly wearing a hijab.
Young women have led the country in public demonstrations against Iran’s repressive conservative regime, which has been in power since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In a video that went viral on social media shortly after, Rekavi claimed his head covering came off and apologized for the mistake.
Rekhabi was met with overwhelming support when he arrived at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport after the competition, but has since remained silent and his whereabouts unknown.
The US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) and other sources suspect that the Iranian government coerced Rekavi to back off her sensitive protests.
Former journalist and current CHRI deputy director, Jasmine Ramsey, has paid close attention to the Rekhabi case. I asked them to consider what they can tell us about the broader fight to end gender inequality in the United States.
Global Citizen: Rekhabi issued a statement claiming he had tossed off his hijab and apologized. Her supporters believe her government forced her to do so. What safety risks do female athletes face today?
Jasmine Ramsey: Iranian athletes, especially major athletes, are supposed to make a deposit with the government before leaving the country. Because, like many people in Iran, many of them want to escape oppression. A different number for each player.
I think the focus should be on the sheer scale of political repression in Iran and how everyone, including athletes, is becoming a champion of basic human rights. Anyone who openly criticizes the state’s policies, has a public platform, has a large audience, is targeted by the state in a number of ways.
This was no mistake. No one should make such a mistake when this is a big problem in your country. That was the choice she made.
There is no way they can escape the hands of the government. Domestically they are under their control, and abroad they are under the control of the government.
In the case of Ernaz Rekavi, she was some distance from the moment this all happened. video It caught the attention of the world. It spread very quickly. And given everything that has happened since that point, she couldn’t make a statement alone. They took her straight out of the airport after her long flight and long ordeal and had her photographed with all of her sports officials and men. And they were really trying to make her a symbol of her nation, but she was actually saying that she was completely against the nation.
Women are currently barred from entering sports stadiums in Iran, and football matches are played behind closed doors to prevent protests. Why are women attending sporting events considered a threat to the Iranian regime?
We are seeing truly amazing acts of courage of women risking their lives. [showing that] They are not going to do this anymore. Elnaz is part of that women’s group. The state is afraid of women. They are utterly afraid of them and try to suppress them by force. But it doesn’t seem to work.
What role do you think sports play in the women’s liberation movement in Iran?
iranian womenDefy state laws that have violated their fundamental rights in many ways for decades. And one of the ways they’ve done it is through sports and even just basic acts like walking down the street, showing more hijab hair, and taking off the hijab completely .
I believe sports is one of the tools Iranian women have used to express their opposition and oppressive national policies.they teach the world how [to do that] In a country where every move you make and everything you do happens under the thumb of an oppressive nation. How do you use different things in society to oppose it? They use sports to do that.
How would you like the international community to support Iranian female athletes and Iranian women in general?
It was honestly heartbreaking to see the International Sport Climbing Federation and other sports bodies simply bribing the Iranian government’s propaganda about her. [Rekabi] Since that day, she had clearly been allowed to do nothing, but in Seoul. It would be great if we could make a statement. She made no attempt to reach out to human rights groups or to actually confirm that her voice was being spoken freely. And there is still time for them to do so. They need to support her and express her concern for her. They should not allow the Iranian government to kill the story.
That several athletes around the world have voiced their concerns and are doing this as a collective call not just for the freedom of Recabi but for all women to dress and act and participate in the sport they love. expressed concern about whether it would be possible to An Iran free of threats of imprisonment, oppression, beatings and death. If there was a collective outcry for this, that would be great.
Most importantly, remember that no one in Iran can freely criticize the state without extreme consequences.
there is one copy [of her statement] There was a lot of tension and stress, she says. She is letting the world know in every way she can that she is not free at this time and that we need to stand by her.She does what she can in Seoul at that moment and that her bold defiance showed. And now, as the international community, we have a responsibility to support her and meet the demands of all Iranian women, not just her.
I just want to make it clear. she is alone And really, she doesn’t look to the many women beaten, arrested, and murdered in the streets because of some kind of celebrity. And keep in mind that it’s not just about her. It should be about what she’s actually trying to do, and that’s drawing attention to the women’s rights movement in her country.
I am concerned about the safety of climber Ernaz Rekabi.
The Iranian government should stop demanding apologies for killings, detentions, and showing women and girls their hair.
—IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) October 18, 2022
What would you say to ordinary citizens who want to show solidarity and don’t know how they can help Iranian women right now?
So I think we’ll keep this story in the spotlight. When the Iranian government takes her away, robs her phone, robs her passport, and makes her sit with her picture for propaganda purposes, what they’re really trying to do is silence the story. .
The fact that you resonate with women’s call for freedom is very important. That’s what the average person can do. No further action is required. Where this goes is up to the people, but they need support. Its most important backup is that the internet is blocked. So even before these protests, the internet was always censored in Iran. only.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.