Iran’s only female Olympic medalist defects to the Netherlands

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist defects to the Netherlands

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has left the country saying she is displeased with being used as a propaganda tool by its authorities. The taekwondo bronze medallist from the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kimia Alizadeh, announced in an Instagram post that she had moved to Europe.

In the post, she vented her frustrations over being made a propaganda tool by the Iranian government whenever it benefited them.

“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,” Alizadeh wrote on January 12. “I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools.”

She claims that while the regime celebrated her international wins and medals, it criticized the choice of sport she had chosen by saying: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”

She said that she no longer wanted to “sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice, and flattery.”

Tehran’s response

Iran’s semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reports that Alizadeh fled to the Netherlands. It is believed that she is interested in pursuing further studies. The 21-year-old’s location was not revealed at the time of the announcement.

Iranian deputy sports minister Mahin Farhadizadeh said: “I have not read Kimia’s post, but as far as I know, she always wanted to continue her studies in physiotherapy.”

Iran’s top performers defecting

Alizadeh is the third top Iranian sports person to stop representing the country in recent months.

In December 2019, Iran’s chess champion Alireza Firouzja decided not to play for Iran over its informal ban on competing against Israeli players. Firouzja is seeking a change in nationality after the Iran Chess Federation withdrew its players from the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championship which took place in Moscow from December 26 to 30, 2019.

Firouzja was listed on the International Chess Federation, Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), database as a registered player but not an Iranian one. He is now recognized as “FIDE licensed” on his official profile.

In September 2018, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei refused to return home over fears for his safety after he ignored orders from the Iranian authorities to withdraw from a potential final competition with an Israeli opponent.

He fled his homeland a year later and received “recognized refugee” status from Germany on November 1, 2019.

Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at