Iran’s only woman Olympic medalist defects to Europe

January 13, 2020 • 8:30 am

I weep for the people of Iran. They’re not nearly as religious as their theocratic rulers, they used to be much more “modern” and secular before the Revolution, and, after surviving a brutal war with Iraq, are now demonstrating both for and against the government, with supplies low, gas prices high, and an oppressive religious regime controlling their every move. If you’re a woman and take off your hijab, you’re bound for jail, often for many years, assuming you survive there.  Homosexuality is a capital crime. It’s awful.

It’s no surprise, then, that this happened. According to many sources, Kimia Alizadeh, the only woman Olympic medalist in Iranian history (she won a bronze in taekwondo, and is just 21) has defected to the West. And, as she announced, it’s because she was oppressed and controlled. Here’s the New York Times story:

An excerpt:

The only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for Iran announced this weekend that she had defected from the nation because of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and said she had been used as a “tool.”

The Olympian, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, announced her decision in an Instagram post accompanied by a photo from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won a bronze medal in taekwondo.

“They took me wherever they wanted,” she wrote. “Whatever they said, I wore. Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.”

Here’s her Instagram post announcing her defection:

After a long hunt, I finally found a translation on The Daily Wire done by four Iranians.  It’s a pretty powerful statement:

How do I start? With a hello, a goodbye or to offer my condolences? Hello to the oppressed people of Iran, goodbye to the noble people of Iran, and my condolences to the perpetually mourning people of Iran. How well do you know me? Have you only seen me in sports matches, on television, or in the presence of government leaders?

Allow me to now freely and without censorship introduce myself.  They will say after this I will amount to nothing. I myself believe that even before this I was nothing. I am Kimia Alizadeh; I am not a historian nor a champion nor a flag-bearing representative of Iran. I am one of millions of oppressed Iranian women who has been a pawn of the regime for years.

They have taken me wherever they have wanted. They dictated the way I should dress and every sentence that they asked me to say, I repeated. At any time they wanted, they paraded me around. They even sacrificed my medals and victories for their oppressive dress code and hijab. I was not important to them. None of us were. We were just tools.

They only cared about our medals. They were only as valuable as the political leverage that they could offer. At the same time, they tell you “a woman should not stretch her legs.” Every morning I wake up my legs are unknowingly spinning like a fan and they expect not to be the flexible athlete that I am? In a live television interview they invited me to specifically ask me about this.

Now they I have left l, they say I sold out. “Mr. Saee, I have left so that I don’t become like all of you. And that I do not take even one further step in the direction that you have taken. If I had, I would have become much more successful much sooner.”

I turned my back because I am a human and I want to stay a human. In your male dominated and female oppressing minds you always thought ‘Kimia is a woman and will not speak.’ My tortured soul will no longer serve your filthy political endeavors nor your dirty economic dealings.

Other than Tae-kwon-do, the only thing i want is a happy and healthy life. To the kind and oppressed people of Iran: I did not want to climb to a pedestal whose steps are paved with lies and deceit and no one from Europe has invited me and no one has offered me anything, but I am willing to bear the difficulty of living in exile because I could no longer stay at a table where dishonesty, con-artistry and injustice were being served. Making this decision was more difficult than earning the Olympic gold medal, But please know that wherever I am I will forever remain a child of my native country. I will count on you and my only wish is to have the support of my people.

It’s not clear where Alizadeh is right now, but she seems to be in the Netherlands, as there is a photo of her and her fiancé in that country standing by a flower-laden memorial to those who died on the Ukrainian flight shot down by Iran (you can see a Twitter thread here). And in the photo (below), she’s not wearing a hijab:

Another excerpt:

Ms. Alizadeh’s announcement came four months after Saeid Mollaei, one of Iran’s biggest judo stars, defected to Germany. During last year’s judo World Championships, Iranian officials pressured Mr. Mollaei to either withdraw or intentionally lose his semifinal bout, to avoid being matched in the final against an Israeli rival.

Iranian athletes are forbidden to compete against Israelis.

“A lot of our athletes are forced to deal with these matters — and their suffering is growing by the day,” Mr. Mollaei told the German news outlet Deutsche Welle in September. “Many athletes have left their country and left their personal lives there behind to pursue their dreams.”

Ms. Alizadeh said that she had embarked on a “difficult path,” but that she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery.”

“This decision is even harder than winning the Olympic gold,” Ms. Alizadeh wrote, “but I remain the daughter of Iran wherever I am.”

Here’s a video of Alizadeh in action:


38 thoughts on “Iran’s only woman Olympic medalist defects to Europe

  1. She’s got some challenges to face now, but I think this deserves a stand-up-and-cheer sort of response, having escaped that place.

  2. Dumb question:

    I noticed this is categorized- in the WEIT parlance – “Muslims behaving badly” – is she claiming to remain a Muslim? Clearly, the bad behavior is that of the Iranian regime.

  3. I read her description of how, even while the regime celebrated her wins, it proclaimed “A pure woman doesn’t stretch her legs.” The government is so lecherous in its description of women I don’t know how any young person stands it living there.
    The mullahs destroyed Iran’s burgeoning biotech industry, too. Now, what jobs are left?
    Horrible. At least she’s out.

  4. As has been shown here, on a different site I recently came across a collection of photos of how people used to dress and behave in Iran. I think the pictures were from the late ’60s and early 70’s. The contrast between then and now is rather mind-blowing, and to think that a large % of the Iranian people would still well remember those times.

    I wonder if the airline downing will grow to be one of those watershed moments where a revolution begins?

    1. I’ve seen that photo too


      Though there’s never a good read to let fear make decisions (i.e. certain “phobias”), there are good reasons to ask how a “perfect” religious regime can explain Alizadeh’s narrative – which doesn’t go as far as it could. It illustrates how significant oppression of Muslims or even perhaps ex-Muslims originates from Muslims themselves.

    2. I have a number of Iranian friends. One recently visited her mother in Iran and sent me a photo of herself, and three of her friends, out shopping in a modern looking shopping centre. I was quite surprised. Yes, they were all wearing headscarves, which were colourful and restrained, but otherwise they looked exactly like a group of ladies from the UK or the US, with colourful coats and generally a western feel.

      Notwithstanding, I too look at the pictures from the 1970s, and the happy young people, and can only hope that a peaceful regime change might happen. I’m not holding my breath.

    3. Yes, the difference in those before-and-after photos is striking. But let us not idealize life in Iran under the Shah and his brutal SAVAK secret police.

      Rank-and-file Iranians supported the Islamists in the late Seventies because they were seen as the only opposition group with the strength and organization to overthrow the Shah (in part because the US and the rest of the West declined to support pro-democracy reformists inside Iran). Little did they expect that the result would be decades of life under an autocratic theocracy.

      1. Reading between the lines of _Reading Lolita in Tehran_ convinced me there could have been a leftist or even vaguely socialist revolution, but unfortunately there was splintering on that side, so the Islamists won. Unfortunately, though: if the leftists had unified, would the faction that had some degree of Soviet support have dominated? Hard to know. If not, good, if so … would Iran be like some of the vaguely Islamic central Asian republics today, with all *their* problems? (I suspect that one would have to be very counterfactual to assume that an Iranian SSR would have happened – cf. Afghanistan.)

  5. In some important ways this will hurt the Iranian regime more than the various economic sanctions that have been imposed.

    A courageous woman. She’s wrong about one thing; she said she was “no champion”; she is in both the literal and competitive senses.

  6. Regardless of how you see Iran, over many years the U.S. has certainly done it’s part to mess up this country.

    The news out today, if true, indicates Trump gave the okay to kill this guy 7 months ago. There was obviously no imminent danger

    1. I gather, Randy, that everything bad that happens in Iran is the fault of the US?

      Sorry, I don’t buy that. The theocracy is in charge, and this is their doing. If you’re going to blame every action of the theocracy on the U.S., you’re wrong, because they have a choice about what kind of religious dictates they force the people to obey.

      I guess every oppression in the Middle East is the fault of the U.S.

      1. What countries CIA installed the Shah? I do not blame the U.S. for everything that is wrong in Iran and never came close to saying that. If you want to make that up, go ahead. But I would also say that many other Muslim countries treat women just a bad or worse than Iran.

        The actions of this country in the Middle East are certainly nothing to be proud of.

          1. The oppression of women is on the country and their religious belief. Just as our lack of equality in this country is on us. However, for this administration, making life as miserable as possible for Iran appears to be the mission. We pulled out of the nuclear agreement and immediately cranked up the sanctions. The sanctions are hurting the people, women and men. Diplomacy does not seem to be something we do any longer. This obsession with Iran for this administration is very puzzling.

            1. “This obsession with Iran for this administration is very puzzling.”

              Not really. A bit like Dubya’s obsession with Iraq. As Orwell observed in ‘1984’, there is no more useful device for keeping control at home than a convenient external enemy. (Of course this isn’t new).

              Also, of course, Obama negotiated a deal with Iran so, like everything else Obama achieved, this is on the orange shitgibbon’s hit list to wreck.


        1. “What countries CIA installed the Shah? “

          That would be the US and the UK. He was in power for 26 years, and brought modernization, social progress, and a very strong and modern economy.

          That he is criticized for being autocratic is not the fault of the US – he was responding to unrest brought about by the efforts and violence of the very same radical theocratic regime in power right now.

          They objected to the modernization, the progress, the economics. They were then and are now responsible for every ill the Islamic Republic foists upon the world.

          What the US and UK did is nothing compared to this.

          1. That is a very odd look at history. How about we install a dictator in your country. No need for a vote, no need for democracy. Everything will be fine and you will love it. That is what you sound like.

            We even backed Iraq in a war with Iran as I recall. How did that work out? We invaded Iraq also as I recall. If you lived next door, do you think you might have something to say about that? Just more obsession with Iraq right….evil empire.

            1. Dictator is rather a strong word. He was another Shah in a very long line of Shahs. A Royal in a very long line of Royals.

              It was complicated, not simple and he did a LOT of good for the citizens. As did his predecessor. Another Shah.

          2. Those of us who knew Iranian trade union organisers and political activists who suffered repeated detentions and tortures during and after the CIA’s coup, and when the US (and UK) government sponsored the regime, will not forget the red, white and blue scum who controlled the country for it’s oil, and tortured people to stop them choosing to become Commies.

            1. …and yet it was still better than the current regime.

              It is easy to criticise both, tho.

              The Western Left who have supported and enabled the reign of the Ayatollahs have blood on their hands. You can blame the CIA for 1953, however. And the Soviet Union as well.

      2. “I gather, Randy, that everything bad that happens in Iran is the fault of the US?”

        At the moment, pretty much, since tRump tore up Obama’s nuclear agreement and is doing everything he can to push Iran into a confrontation.

        It does absolutely nothing for the people of Iran to attack their country from the outside. All that ever does to any country is to increase its government’s hold on its citizens and its repression of any dissent.

        I feel sorry for the people of Iran who are mostly an intelligent, educated people saddled with a primitive theocratic government they can’t get rid of and now under threat from an erratic religiously-supported loony whose country can’t seem to get rid of him.


  7. Just a reminder that a substantial portion of the regressive left support and defend the current Iranian regime….because, you know, “the Shah”, and “1953”, blah blah blah.

    It is fascinating to see pictures from Iran (Tehran in particular) in the 1960s and 1970s, and different today, where women are covered in black garb. The Iranian women of decades past were all smiling. I can’t tell with today’s pictures, and that’s how the Islamist regime wants it. I suspect a large section of the Iranian population don’t.

  8. Iranian chess master Dorsa Derakhshani defected to the US a couple years ago. What with all the defections, pretty soon Iranians will be everywhere else except for Iran. And when the wingnuts defect to Iran to be in the theocracy Iran will be all Americans. Iran will basically be America and everywhere else will be Iran.

    1. Iranian chess players are forced not to play against players from Israel. FIDE, the world chess organization is not tolerating this anymore (The motto is: Gens una sumus — We are [a] family).

      Because of that Alireza Firouzja one of the greatest chess talents at present (The greatest? World rank 27, born in 2003) left Iran for good as well.

  9. Dictator is rather a strong word. He was another Shah in a very long line of Shahs. A Royal in a very long line of Royals.

    It was complicated, not simple and he did a LOT of good for the citizens. As did his predecessor. Another Shah.

    1. “He was another Shah in a very long line of Shahs. A Royal in a very long line of Royals.”

      Hardly. His father was an Army general and not, I think, with any royal ancestry, who came to power in the 1920’s and was nominated as Shah, usurping the old Shah.

      Complicated, as you say, but not what is normally understood by ‘a long line of Royals’.


  10. A related story:

    On German TV-news an other defection story is reported:
    Shohreh Bayat the arbiter for the world-chess-championship for women in China & Russia -also an Iranian- is not going to return to Iran.

    During the first games she was wearing a light version of hijab, covering just half of her hair.
    Apparently Iranian media and officials went after her, demanding an excuse.

    Apparently she does not feel save to return to Iran anymore and decided to skip the hijab all


    Google tranlsate is quite accurate…

  11. Very impressive young lady; Here’s hoping for the best for her.

    I wonder how many people are mailing this to AoC, Tlaib, and other crazies on the “isn’t islam great for women!” control-left.

    Deodand’s comment at #13 is à propos (nice Jack Vance reference, too, dude [or dudesse]).

  12. Tnis is so interesting.
    When this lady won her medal wearing a hijab, there were no shortage of news stories in the West extolling the new wave of muslim women who could ‘kick ass’ while remaining true muslim women. I remember a piece about how “sadly” or “unfortunately” women competing in hijab were still not a very common sight and how this lady and a few others were breaking stereotypes… And yet here you have it: the true feelings of the women leonized by opressors and useful woke idiots when she can finally be free to express herself.
    That’s exactly the kind of attitude from well-meaning people among us that infuriates me.

  13. Despite the tragic context, that made my day! (That it was a hit against oppression enforced clothes was a boon as well.)

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