Kimia Alizadeh's announcement comes as a wave of anti-government protests erupt across the country
Iran’s top female athlete, Kimia Alizadeh, has announced that she has permanently left the country.
Alizadeh, 21, made the shocking declaration on Instagram yesterday, writing that she didn’t want to be part of the Iranian regime’s ‘hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery’.
Known affectionately within Iran as ‘The Tsunami’, Alizadeh made history for the country in 2016 after winning a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics.
Her defection comes as anti-government protests sweep across the country – after Iran admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger airliner last Wednesday in the midst of a heated confrontation with the US. All 176 people on board were killed.
In her social media posts, Alizadeh described herself as ‘one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years’, stating that authorities in the Islamic republic had consistently used her success as a propagranda tool.
‘I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.’
She added that while the regime celebrated her victories, it still criticised her chosen sport, as officials would embarrass her with comments such as: ‘It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs.’
Speaking out again on Saturday, Alizadeh said of the Iranian regime: ‘My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies.’
The athlete also shared her hopes for the future, adding: ‘I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life.’
The ISNA agency reported that Alizadeh is hoping to still compete at the Tokyo Olympics later this year, but not under the Iranian flag.
Reacting to the news, Iranian politician Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh accused ‘incompetent officials’ of allowing Iran’s ‘human capital to flee’.
Despite reports that she has been training in the Netherland, Alizadeh has not given any indication as to where she’s currently located and has denied she’s been invited to Europe. The young sportswoman did state, however, that no matter where in the world she was, she would forever remain ‘a child of Iran’.