Iran’s only female Olympic medallist has shocked the country’s regime by defecting. In a strongly worded letter online explaining her decision, the bronze medal winner in Rio 2016 ripped into the Islamic Republic government describing herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran”.

Taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh posted the letter on Instagram as Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency said she had fled to the Netherlands.

She criticised wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf and accused officials in Iran of sexism and mistreatment, saying her decision was difficult but necessary.


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In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure.

In September, Saeed Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, left the country for Germany.

He said Iranian officials had forced him to not compete with Israeli judoka.

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

Alizadeh, 21, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and is expected to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo under another nation’s flag or the Olympic flag.