This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, says she has permanently left the country, decrying what she called the “injustice” and “hypocrisy” of an Iranian political system that uses and humiliates athletes for political purposes.
“Should I start with hello, goodbye, or condolences?” she wrote on Instagram on January 11.
The 21-year-old Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, did not say where she was writing from, but in the past has said she wants to settle in the Netherlands.
In her statement, she said she wanted nothing more than “taekwondo, security, and a happy, healthy life.”
But she said she no longer wanted to “sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice, and flattery.”
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran with whom they have been playing for years,” she wrote.
“I wore whatever they told me to wear,” she said, referring to the Islamic veil, compulsory for all women in public in deeply conservative Iran.
“I repeated everything they told me to say,” she wrote, adding that “none of us matter to them.”
News of Alizadeh’s disappearance on January 9 had raised concerns in her homeland, with the semiofficial ISNA news agency reporting: “Shock for Iran’s taekwondo. Kimia Alizadeh has emigrated to the Netherlands.”
ISNA wrote that it was thought Alizadeh was looking to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but not as a member of the Iranian team.
Alizadeha did not reveal her plans in her statement, but told the “dear Iranian people” that she would remain “a child of Iran wherever” she lived.
In October, Alizadeh made the BBC’s list of 100 most “inspiring and influential women from around world” for 2019 based on this year’s theme of the “female future.”
Western media at the time said the Iranian taekwondo medalist was credited with “emboldening Iranian girls and women to push the boundaries of personal freedom,” the BBC wrote, citing the Financial Times newspaper.