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Iran's only female Olympic medalist has permanently left the country and defected to Europe, according to an Instagram post in which she cites the country's treatment of women as her primary reason.
Kimia Alizadeh won a bronze medal in the taekwondo 57-kilogram weight class at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She also won a silver medal at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships.
On Instagram, she wrote that she was "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran, who have been playing with me for years," and accused the Iranian government of exploiting her athletic success.
RadioFreeEurope reports that an Iranian state-run news outlet first reported on Thursday that Alizadeh had "emigrated to the Netherlands," though the athlete did not specify in her post where she was.
Iran's only female Olympic medalist says she has permanently left the country, posting a lengthy Instagram post that begins with "Should I start with hello, goodbye, or condolences?"
Kimia Alizadeh, 21, cited the country's treatment of women, including her, as the main force driving her defection to Europe. Alizadeh earned a bronze medal in the taekwondo 57-kilogram weight class at the 2016 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships.
On Thursday, Iran's state-run news media reported that Alizadeh had defected to the Netherlands, according to RadioFreeEurope, which added that she was expected to still try for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with a different country's team.
Alizadeh didn't specify in her Instagram post where she was or what her future athletic plans were, though she did say her only concerns at the moment were taekwondo, her security, and a healthy and happy life.
"I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran, who have been playing with me for years," Alizadeh wrote, according to an English translation. "They took me wherever they wanted. Whatever they said, I wore. Every sentence they ordered, I repeated."
She also accused the Iranian government of exploiting her athletic success while condemning her as a woman, writing, "They put my medals on the obligatory veil and attributed it to their management and tact."
Confirmation of her departure comes days after Saturday's protests in Iran, after the government acknowledged it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that took off from Tehran, killing 176 people.
Alizadeh also said she had not been invited to defect to Europe but would "accept the pain and hardship of homesickness" over what she said was the "corruption and lies" in Iran.
"My troubled spirit does not fit into your dirty economic channels and tight political lobbies," she wrote. "None of us matter to them."
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