Describing herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran,” taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh has defected from the Islamic republic.
Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medallist, posted a letter of her decision on Instagram as Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said she had fled to the Netherlands. She criticised wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf and accused officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment.
Alizadeh, 21, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said she had left Iran because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”.
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years,” she wrote.
“I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”
She described the decision to leave Iran as difficult, but necessary.
There was no immediate reaction from Iranian authorities. ISNA said Alizadeh had been reported injured and unable to compete. Their report suggested Alizadeh may try to compete under another nation’s flag at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Alizadeh denied she’d been invited to Europe or given a tempting offer and did not confirm which country she had gone to.
Iranians reacted with shock last week when news of Alizadeh’s disappearance first emerged.
Iranian politician Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh accused “incompetent officials” of allowing Iran’s “human capital to flee”.
In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, Saeed Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, left the country for Germany. He said Iranian officials had forced him to not compete with Israeli judoka.
Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.
Announcing her intention to leave Iran, Alizadeh did not mention her plans but said she would remain “a child of Iran” wherever she is. (Source: Mainichi Japan)