Amid anti-government protests in cities across Iran on Saturday and international pressure after Iran admitted it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian flight, killing all 176 people aboard, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist Kimia Alizadeh has announced that she has permanently left her country for Europe.
Alizadeh, 21, is the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal after claiming taekwondo bronze in the -57kg category during the 2016 Rio Olympics and is very popular in her country.
In keeping with Iran’s strict Muslim custom, Alizadeh, then 18, competed at the Rio Olympics wearing a head scarf over her taekwondo uniform and protective gear.
According to Alizadeh, known in Iran as “The Tsunami”, her decision to leave Iran was a very hard one, but she felt ‘used’ by the Iranian government, who have been playing with her and millions of Iranian women ‘for years.’
“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” Alizadeh wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday explaining why she was defecting.
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”
“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit always went to those in charge.
“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,”
“The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”
Alizadeh said she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.”
“My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.
According to her, the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am.”
Iranian MP Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, meanwhile has demanded answers, accusing those he described as the “incompetent officials” of the Taekwando Federation for allowing Iran’s “human capital to flee” the country.