Jan 12, 2020

First Iranian woman to win Olympic medal says she has defected

Kimia Alizadeh celebrates after defeating Nikita Glasnovic of Sweden during the Women's -57kg bronze medal taekwondo contest at the 2016 Olympics. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Kimia Alizadeh, the first and only Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal, announced on Instagram Saturday that she has permanently left her home country, condemning the Iranian government for its "corruption and lies."

What she's saying: The 21-year-old Alizadeh, who won the bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, said she would always remain a "daughter of Iran," but that she could no longer sit at the regime's "table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery," according to a CNN translation.

  • "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years," Alizadeh wrote.
  • "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."

The big picture: Alizadeh's defection comes at a fraught moment for the Iranian government, which is facing growing domestic unrest over the downing of a Ukrainian commercial jet last week. Protests roiled the country this weekend, with many demonstrators calling for the resignation of top officials — including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Iranian protesters call for Khamenei's resignation over plane crash

Anti-riot policemen ride motorcycles along an avenue as Iranians gather in front of a university to mark the memory of the victims of the Ukraine Boeing 737 passenger plane crash in Tehran. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Iranian protesters have taken to the streets for a second day, calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's resignation after the government admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board, Reuters reports.

The latest: Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to break up protests in Tehran on Sunday, per the New York Times, which notes demonstrations have spread to other cities across the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 13, 2020

Iran's supreme leader blasts "clown" Trump in rare public sermon

Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei told a crowd of his supporters the U.S. is an "arrogant power" and that God had allowed Iran to "slap the face" of the U.S., The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Khamenei gave the rare public sermon on Friday to present a unified image of Iran to the rest of the world after recent escalations with the U.S. and an Iranian military accidentally shot down a civilian plane. The killing of all 176 passengers — including 82 Iranians — sparked protests across the country.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020

Iran's former crown prince rallies support for regime change

Inside Iran's Green Palace, with a painting of Reza Shah Pahlav. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's former crown prince entered the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, to a standing ovation on Wednesday before calling on the U.S. to support the will of the Iranian people — to bring down their government.

Between the lines: Some might question Reza Pahlavi's status as a spokesperson for the Iranian people. He hasn't stepped foot in Iran since his father, the shah, fled the country in 1979.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020