Reason Roundup

Climber Who Competed Without Her Hijab Apologizes as Protests Continue To Rock Iran

Plus: Bite mark analysis is a sham, tax code adjusted for inflation, and more...


Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi has returned to Tehran, after competing in an international competition without a hijab and subsequently apologizing. Rekabi returned to Iran today and was greeted by a cheering crowd.

Last weekend, Rekabi represented Iran at the IFSC Climbing Asian Championships in Seoul. In video of the competition, Rekabi can be seen climbing sans hijab—which goes against Iran's rules for women athletes.

People became concerned for Rekabi after reports that friends had not been able to reach her and that her passport and phone were confiscated as she got on a plane back to Tehran.

Rekabi subsequently posted an apology on her Instagram page, saying that the absence of a hijab was unintentional. "Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off," her post said.

"The claim of an error on her Instagram account may suggest the regime is trying to avoid putting her in jail after the video of her without her hijab went viral," suggests the Guardian.

"State media later broadcast an interview with Ms Rekabi, in which she repeated the explanation she had given in an Instagram post for climbing with her hair uncovered," notes the BBC. "I was suddenly and unexpectedly called on to compete while I was at the women's locker room," said Rekabi. "I was busy wearing my shoes and fixing my equipment and forgot to wear my hijab, which I should have worn."

The controversy comes amid ongoing protests against restrictions on women and the Iranian regime more broadly. Since September, Iranians have been taking to the streets.

The protests were initially spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested for not wearing a hijab correctly.

A main focus all along has been on women's rights, with many Iranian women removing their headscarves in protest. But protesters have also moved beyond this, decrying Iranian dictatorship more generally.

"The current protests in Iran sound the death knell of the Islamic Republic," suggests Masih Alinejad in Foreign Affairs this week. Amini's killing "has unleashed a wave of angry and bloody demonstrations, boycotts, work stoppages, and wildcat strikes that have exhausted the country's security forces and spread to more than 100 cities. The government has endured major protests before, notably in 2009, 2017, and 2019, but these demonstrations are different. They embody the anger that Iranian women and young Iranians feel toward a regime that seeks to stifle their dearest desires. And they promise to upend Iran's establishment."

Alinejad continues:

The compulsory wearing of the hijab is to the Islamic Republic what the Berlin Wall was to communism, a symbol not just of power and endurance but of vulnerability. The Berlin Wall was also an admission of the fragility of the communist system, which depended on exercising great control over people. Similarly, compulsory hijab laws reflect the Islamic Republic's fear of allowing its citizens personal freedoms and its intent to control society by treating women as if they are pieces of property to be corralled and protected. Once the Berlin Wall fell, communism was doomed. The same fate awaits the Islamic Republic once women can throw off their veils and participate in social life as men do.

Alinejad points out how the internet and social media have invigorated a younger generation of protesters:

Iranian officials have used footage from surveillance cameras in public places such as subways and motorways to help identify and fine women who flout the mandatory hijab rule. The chief of the Headquarters for Enjoining Right and Forbidding Evil, a government body responsible for enforcing Islamist laws, warned in August that women who post pictures of themselves without a hijab on the Internet will be deprived of some social rights for six months to one year. Authorities have prevented women whom they perceive not to be in full compliance with the dress code from entering government offices and banks and from riding on public transportation.

Such measures have not stopped Iranian women from resisting the hijab. For the past decade, the authorities have had to deal with greater online militancy by Iranian women. With traditional media completely controlled by the state, Iranians have flocked to social media, especially platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, and WhatsApp, to push back against the veil. For instance, millions follow the social media campaign "My Stealthy Freedom," which seeks to get rid of compulsory hijab laws in Iran, and its various initiatives, such as White Wednesdays (encouraging women to wear white scarves on Wednesdays as a sign of dissent), Walking Unveiled (when women unveil themselves in public), Men in Hijab (when men post pictures of themselves wearing hijab), and My Camera Is My Weapon (in which women share mobile phone footage of abusive men or interactions with the morality police), all designed to enable women to challenge the onerous dress code. The campaigns have empowered women to take off their hijabs and defy the strictures of the regime. Using their mobile phones, women have shared so many videos of morality police harassment via "My Stealthy Freedom" that the government introduced a 2019 law that made sending videos to the campaign an offense punishable by ten years of imprisonment.

For the regime, trying to control a young generation that wants social change and stronger connections to the West is an uphill battle. Despite widespread censorship, Iran's Internet penetration rate (the percentage of the country's population that have access to the Internet) at the beginning of 2022 was 84 percent, a high mark. Iran has over 130 million mobile subscriptions, which gives the country of 84 million people a staggering mobile phone penetration rate of 161 percent, with the average person having more than one phone. The reported number of Internet users in 2022 increased to 72 million from 58 million in 2020, and the real figure could be even higher.

As Iran cracks down on dissidents and perpetuates human rights abuses at home, it's also aiding in human rights abuses abroad.

Iran has agreed to send more weapons to Russia, Iranian officials and diplomats told Reuters. Iran will provide Russia with drones and surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber and other high ranking officials visited Moscow to discuss the weapons deal earlier this month.

"One of the drones Iran agreed to supply is the Shahed-136, a delta-winged weapon used as a 'kamikaze' air-to-surface attack aircraft. It carries a small warhead that explodes on impact," reports Reuters. "Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar are Iranian short-range surface to surface ballistic missiles capable of striking targets at distances of between 300 km and 700 km (186 and 435 miles). The Iranian diplomat rejected assertions by Western officials that such transfers breach a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution."


A new study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) finds no scientific evidence to back up bite mark analysis as a crime-solving tool. What's more, "the evidence we do have explicitly refutes two of them," Radley Balko points out:

Studies have consistently shown that human skin is incapable of recording and preserving the details of a bite, and competency tests have shown that not only are bitemark analysts bad at matching bites to human subjects, they often can't even agree on what is and isn't a human bite.

Balko wrote about bite mark analysis for Reason a number of times in 2009 and went on to write a book about the injustices this pseudo-science perpetuates (The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South).

J.D. Tuccille has more on the recent NIST report here.

On October 27, NIST researchers are holding a webinar on their findings.


Tax code adjusted for inflation. "The Internal Revenue Service adjusted key tax code parameters for 2023 to reflect higher inflation, raising the standard deduction and the income thresholds where tax rates take effect," reports The Wall Street Journal. The top marginal tax rate next year will apply to people making more than $578,125 individually or $693,750 as a married couple. The standard deduction will rise to $13,850 for an individual and $27,700 for a married couple, while the maximum contribution to a flexible spending account will rise from $2,850 to $3,050.


• Insanity:

• Why did the FBI raid this ABC News producer's home?

• The Cato Institute is suing the Biden administration over student loan forgiveness plan.

The Miami Herald takes a horrifying look at the treatment of Craig Ridley, who starved to death inside a Florida prison. Ridley dislocated his neck after being tackled by a guard, and subsequently couldn't reach his trays of food. For five days, officers ignored his complaints that he couldn't reach the trays of food they were leaving him.

• New York attorney general Letitia James wants to criminalize sharing images or videos of violence. Prosecutors and civil liberties advocates are skeptical.

• Once again, human trafficking panic may lead to new burdens on small businesses and their employees. (Read more about this in my 2020 story on massage parlor crackdowns.)