Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has reportedly defected, posting a goodbye letter to Iran on Saturday, calling out the government’s “hypocrisy” as she announced she had permanently left the country.
“Should I start with hello, goodbye, or condolences?” Taekwondo athlete, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, posted on her Instagram in Farsi, Agence France-Presse reported.
Alizadeh did not disclose where she was going, but Iran’s ISNA news agency reported she had gone to the Netherlands, according to AFP. The Iranian report quoted Alizadeh’s coach as saying the athlete was injured and did not show up for trials ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The Olympian’s announcement came just a day after Iranian officials admitted to downing a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing 176 people minutes after takeoff from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday due to “human error,” thinking it was a military aircraft.
She accused the Iranian government of “lying” and “injustice” toward Iranian athletes, adding all she wants is “Taekwondo, security and a happy and healthy life,” according to AFP.
Alizadeh won a bronze medal in Taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
She said she wore everything the government asked her to wear, referring to the head covering all Iranian female athletes must wear, and wrote she “repeated everything they told me to say…None of us matter to them.”
Iranian parliamentarian Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh decried “incompetent officials,” saying the country had allowed “human capital to flee,” AFP reported.
He compared Alizadeh to Alireza Firouzja, an Iranian chess prodigy who now lives in France after becoming a grandmaster at age 14.
In a Twitter message, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed Alizadeh’s decision.
#KimiaAlizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, has rejected the regime’s oppression of women,” Ortagus wrote. “She has defected for a life of security, happiness, and freedom. #Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them.”
ISNA reported Alizadeh plans to try to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo but wouldn’t represent Iran.
Alizadeh promised the Iranian people she would always remain a “child of Iran.”
By Brie Stimson