Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist has permanently left home for Europe.
In an Instagram post
over the weekend, Kimia Alizadeh claimed that officials in the country have oppressed her along with millions of other women, exploiting her “whenever they saw fit.”
Also known as “The Tsunami,” Alizadeh won bronze in the 57-kilogram (127-pound) category of taekwondo at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated,”
the 21-year-old athlete wrote, according to CNN
People began spreading the word about her defection last Thursday, with some claiming she had gone to the Netherlands.
“Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she added. “I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools.”
Alizadeh’s comments come amid tensions in Iran, whose military announced that it had shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all of the 176 people on board, according to Al Jazeera
The country has also been in conflict with the U.S. after Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top military leader, was killed during a drone strike in Iraq.
Although Alizadeh has not commented on Iran’s geopolitical issues, she did address the oppression of its people, particularly its restrictive policies on the appearance and public conduct of women.
She pointed out that while the regime — headed by Hassan Rouhani — celebrated her accomplishments, it also criticized the sport she loves, as they believe that “the virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs.”
“My troubled spirit does not fit into your dirty economic channels and tight political lobbies. I have no other wish except for taekwondo, security, and a happy and healthy life,”
she added, according to The New York Times
Alizadeh reportedly assured her father and her coach that she was traveling as part of a vacation allegedly sponsored by the Iranian government.
It’s unclear whether she had chosen to seek asylum in the Netherlands, but a recent photo
shows her with her fiancé, Hamed Madanchi, at a memorial service for the Tehran plane crash in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.
Despite her decision to leave her country, Alizadeh vowed, “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am.”
Alizadeh is not the first Iranian athlete to leave home. In late August, judo star Saeid Mollaei defected to Germany, fearing persecution after he refused to quit the world championships in Tokyo.
“Many athletes have left their country and left their personal lives there behind to pursue their dreams,”
Mollaei told Deutsche Welle