Iranian Climber Elnaz Rekabi Competes Without Hijab, Sparking Fear Of More Migrants Seeking The Highs
Enlarge this image toggle caption Mark Reutter/AP Mark Reutter/AP
Elnaz Rekabi, 35, is 5’11” and weighs less than 100 pounds. She is from Iran — one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. But while her family was chased out of the country for being non-Muslim, she’s not religious.
Rekabi has climbed the world’s highest mountains. She competed in the Women’s Alpine Skiing World Cup in Austria as a member of Team Iran. This was the first time many of the Iranian women had ever competed. Rekabi has also participated in the Bad Gastein Ski Festival and in the French Alps.
When asked about who she admires, she says she appreciates her mother — who was herself a successful female high mountain climber and skier. But her family, she says, has a different perspective on her accomplishments.
“My mother said that I should just go to Iran to train and take my place in the mountains as someone else. So I didn’t want to go,” Rekabi says. “I don’t know why they didn’t want me to go.”
So after finishing school at age 15, Rekabi moved to Austria to train for her first big opportunity.
“In high school I only skied,” she says. “In the end they told me, ‘You should go to a specialized school where you can do a little bit more.'” They told her to go to the ski school in Austria, where she trains for four hours a day with a focus on her back, core and legs. That’s the best she can do these days, she says.
Her sister is also a competitive mountain climber, and she now competes in the Austrian national ski team. Rekabi says she feels a mix of joy and depression whenever her