The only woman ever to win an Olympic medal for Iran appears to have defected from her homeland, citing oppression at the hands of the Middle Eastern county’s regime.
Kimia Alizadeh, 21, became a national hero when she won a bronze medal for taekwondo at the 2016 Rio games in Brazil.
But in an Instagram post on Saturday, she launched a scathing attack on the “hypocrisy” of the Iran’s administration and appeared to imply that she had permanently left the country. It is unclear when.
Calling herself “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran,” she claimed that those in charge had always taken credit for her success.
“They put my medals on the obligatory veil and attributed it to their management and tact,” Alizadeh wrote to her 370,000 followers.
“Whatever they said I wore. Every sentence they ordered I repeated,” she said.
“My troubled spirit does not fit into your dirty economic channels and tight political lobbies,” she added. “I have no other wish except for taekwondo, security and a happy and healthy life.”
Although she did not disclose her whereabouts or where she intended to live, Alizadeh made it clear that she had not been invited to Europe.
Some Iranian media reports suggested last week that she might seek refuge in the Netherlands, but Alizadeh said she had not “been given a tempting offer.”
She added: “I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery. This decision is even harder to win than the Olympic gold, but I remain the daughter of Iran wherever I am.”
It is unclear whether she intends to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in July under another nation’s flag.
She won her medal in the 57kg category in Rio, wearing a traditional head scarf along with her taekwondo uniform and protective gear, receiving nationwide praise for her effort.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus tweeted that Alizadeh “defected for a life of security, happiness and freedom.”
She added that “Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them.”
Alizadeh is the third top Iranian sports person to stop representing the country in recent months.