Kimia Alizade, the only female athlete from Iran to win an Olympics medal, has defected. "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years", the 21-year old Iranian Taekwando player wrote in an Instagram post.
In the post, she announced that she was leaving her home country for Europe. Alizade won a bronze medal in 57kg category of Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics. "I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am", she said.
Why did Alizadeh defect?
"Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences," the 21-year-old wrote in the Instagram post. "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years", she wrote further, explaining her decision to leave her homeland.
Citing oppression, Alizadeh, affectionately known in Iran as 'The Tsunami', wrote: "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".
"I wasn't important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools," Alizadeh added. "The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!", the regime held, according to her, while at the same time, taking pride in her accomplishments.
She 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"
Reports of her defection started emerging from Thursday, CNN reported. She confirmed the same on Saturday, without naming the country she has defected to. "Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them", said U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
Anti-government protests in Iran
Her defection comes at a time when Iran is in the middle of anti-government protests, spearheaded largely by the youth. The protests erupted when Iran admitted on Saturday that it had "unintentionally" shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 onboard. Protesters have called for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini to step down. Khomeini has been ruling the country for the last three decades as there is no limit to his term.
Alizadeh is one of the many Iranian sportspersons who have left the nation. Alireza Firouzja, Iran's top-rated chess champion, decided to stop playing for Iran in December over the country's informal ban on competing against Israeli players. In September, Saeid Mollaei, a martial artist who practices judo, left the country for Germany. Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, left the country for Australia in 2019.