Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, has dumped the country, as she announced her defection to Europe.
This was made known in a letter she published on social media, as she described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women” in the country.
The Taekwondo champion, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, criticised Iran’s political system in a social media post on Sunday, accusing the country’s authorities of using her as a propaganda tool.
The 21-year-old implied in an Instagram post written in Farsi that she had moved to Europe but her location is unknown. Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported earlier this month that Alizadeh had emigrated to the Netherlands.
Kimia Alizadeh describes her decision to leave as difficult, but referring to herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran,” Alizadeh says it was necessary.
“This decision is even harder to win than the Olympic gold, but I remain the daughter of Iran wherever I am,” Alizadeh writes.
Alizadeh was 18-years-old when she won a bronze medal for taekwondo at the 2016 summer Olympics. She is the only woman to ever win an Olympic medal for Iran.
“No one has invited me to Europe and I haven’t been given a tempting offer. But I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of the hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery,” she said.
Alizadeh said the Islamic Republic’s authorities had attributed her success to their management and the fact that she wore a headscarf, which is obligatory for women in Iran.
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years … I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated,” she wrote.
“None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”
In her letter, she accuses officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment and criticizes the compulsory wearing of hijab headscarves in public for women.
“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said,” the letter reads. “Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated.”
It is unclear whether Alizadeh will compete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer under another nation’s flag.
Her defection comes at a time of high tension between Iran and the United States, as well as growing turmoil in Iran.