The sole female Iranian Olympic medalist has defected. Kimia Alizadeh bid farewell and has relocated to Europe. It is reported she has gone to the Netherlands.
The bronze medalist in Taekwondo posted her letter of farewell on Instagram just one day after the Iranian government admitted it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet. She wrote in Farsi.
“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” the 21-year–old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”
“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,” she wrote, adding that credit always went to those in charge.
“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh goes on to say, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”
None of those criticisms of the brutal dictatorship in Iran are new, of course. It is excellent timing on her part, though, to garner peak publicity for her decision to leave. With the world press focused on the events in Iran right now, especially the protests going on after the downing of the jet, her defection is yet another slap to the faces of the mullahs.
Though the head of Iran’s Taekwondo Federation, Seyed Mohammad Pouladgar, denied that she defected, Alizadeh confirmed her announcement. She spoke of the gravity of her decision. No doubt she is worried about the family she left behind in Iran.
Alizadeh confirmed the rumors Saturday, saying she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.”
“My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.
She said the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am,” she said.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted out support for Alizadeh.
#KimiaAlizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, has rejected the regime’s oppression of women. She has defected for a life of security, happiness, and freedom. #Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them. https://t.co/NIzdo4PPwI
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) January 12, 2020
Speaking of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had enough of athletes making political statements by way of protests on the winners’ podium and within the Olympic village. The committee issued a three-page guideline Thursday on how and where the athletes can protest during the 2020 Olympics in Toyko. Essentially the message is just take the protesting outside.
The IOC said athletes are banned from protesting while on the field of play, in the Olympic Village and during medal and other official ceremonies. However, they are allowed to express political opinions during press interviews outside the Village, in meetings and on traditional and social media.
“We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the IOC said in a statement. “This is why it is important, on both a personal and a global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations.”
If the athletes don’t follow the new guidelines, there will be consequences. Protests are different than voicing political speech is a distinction the committee is making here. The protocol for medal ceremonies and actions taken on the field of competition is to be respected. The athletes can mouth off, er, express themselves on social media or in media interviews, but they can’t kneel in protest on the ceremonial platform or on the field. The committee intends to limit “divisive disruption.” The athletes are being warned – there will be disciplinary action taken.
This is good news for the sports audience and for the other athletes, too. The audience isn’t interested in a few athletes pushing a political agenda in the midst of world-class amateur competition. The protest antics also take away attention from other medalists, who are just as entitled to recognition as the few who try to grab headlines for themselves.
Not to be “silenced” or something, soccer star Megan Rapinoe tells her Instagram followers that she’s not having the new guidelines. That’s predictable behavior from her – she’s made a lot of money and garnered a lot of attention around the world for her protests.
Megan Rapinoe responds to the IOC banning protests at the Olympics: “We will not be silenced” pic.twitter.com/69PljKC8u5
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 10, 2020
The IOC president weighed in and said what most of us are thinking – just leave personal political opinions out of the competition. They can do the protesting on their own time. No one is silencing the athletes.
IOC President Thomas Bach supported the rules Friday, arguing that political neutrality of the Olympics would be undercut if an athlete took a knee in protest on the medal podium.
“They are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends,” Bach said of the Olympics. “Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organizations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be.”
The Olympics begin on July 24 in Tokyo.