Iranian Olympian has defected

Smiling woman wrapping Iranian flag around her shoulders (© Robert F. Bukaty/AP Images)
Kimia Alizadeh, seen here at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, was Iran’s first and only female Olympic medalist. (© Robert F. Bukaty/AP Images)

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said she defected from the Islamic Republic of Iran and described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran.”

Kimia Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics, criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf and accused officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment, according to a letter she posted on Instagram.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women have been banned from soccer stadiums and other athletic events, one of many restrictions placed on what was once a thriving modern society.

Other Iranian athletes likewise have left their country, citing government pressure, the Associated Press said. In September 2019, Saeed Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, left the country for Germany. He said Iranian officials had forced him to not compete with the Israeli judoka.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, left Iran for Australia last year.