Olympian Defects From Iran

'Whatever they said, I wore,' says Kimia Alizadeh, the nation's only female medalist
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2020 10:50 AM CST
Iranian Olympic Medalist Defects, Cites Oppression
Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin of Iran celebrates after winning the bronze medal in a women's Taekwondo 57-kg competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

(Newser) – Iran's only female Olympic medalist said she defected from the Islamic Republic in a blistering online letter in which she described herself as "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran." Taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh posted the letter on Instagram, the AP reports, as Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency said she had fled to the Netherlands. She criticized having to wear a hijab headscarf and accused officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment. "Whatever they said, I wore," Alizadeh wrote in the letter posted Saturday. "Every sentence they ordered, I repeated." She described the decision to leave as difficult but necessary. "None of us matter for them," Alizadeh said, per Reuters, "we are just tools."

There was no immediate reaction from Iranian authorities. ISNA said Alizadeh had been reported injured and unable to compete. The report suggested Alizadeh may try to compete under another nation's flag at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Alizadeh, 21, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, Saeed Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, left for Germany. Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, defected last year to Australia. In the past week, 176 people, including Iranians, were killed when the military shot down a Ukrainian airliner by mistake, and at least 56 died in a stampede at the funeral for a military commander killed by a US strike. "Goodbye noble people of Iran," Alizadeh wrote, "my condolences to you people who are always mourning." (Iran once threatened to boycott the Olympics.)

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