Kimia Alizadeh, the only female Olympic athlete in Iran, just defected from the middle eastern country in a scathing letter posted to Instagram, according to Slate. In the post, she brutally accused the Iranian regime of oppression and hypocrisy. The move is just the latest in a number of high profile athletic defections from Iran.
Alizadeh was just 18-years-old when she won a bronze medal for taekwondo at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. It was a monumental achievement for both herself and the nation, as she became the first and only woman to ever win an Olympic medal for Iran.
Iranian officials sought to take advantage of the athlete's star quality by not only taking credit for her achievements but also using her to create good publicity for the regime. Alizadeh claimed that she was fed up with being complicit with the "hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery."
"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," she wrote.
"I wasn't important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools," she added, before calling herself "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran."
Alizadeh also recalled how the government would humiliate her while simultaneously using her for good press. One example was how an official claimed that it was indecent for a woman to stretch her legs. She also claimed that she was against being forced to wear the hijab, even while competing.
Along with the statement, Alizadeh posted a black-and-white photo of herself after winning the bronze medal.Though Alizadeh claimed that she had left for Europe, she emphasized that she was not seeking asylum and did not give any more specifics about her location. However, reports are suggesting that she is currently in the Netherlands.
Though Alizadeh is the first female athlete to defect from Iran, she does follow the lead of at least three other Iranian athletes. In September, Saeid Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, defected for Germany after being ordered to pull out of fights against Israeli players. In July, Iranian para-archer and 2020 Tokyo Olympic athlete Pourya Jalalipour fled to the Netherlands. Finally, Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, left Iran for Australia last year.
The defection comes as Iran is mid-crisis with both a potential conflict with the United States and as the public take to the streets to protest the regime's coverup of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752.