In the press of events, the defection of Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, has not gotten as much attention as it should have.
"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 for her success always went to those in charge.
"I wasn't important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools," Alizadeh added, 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!"
Alizadeh won a bronze medal in Taekwondo at the 2016 Summer Games.
It is not known where Kimia Alizadeh is, but Reason’s Nick Gillespie has no doubt about the meaning of her action:
The killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States military will understandably dominate headlines for weeks if not months to come.
But the actual demise of the authoritarian regime that's been in power since 1979 will come more from acts like the one taken by Kimia Alizadeh, Iran's only female Olympic medalist. Late last week, the bronze medalist in Taekwondo in the 2016 Summer Games announced via Instagram that she has fled her home country due to the systematic oppression of women.
Well, actually the importance of the killing of Soleimani is hard to underestimate, but Gillespie’s point is well-taken.
Meanwhile, there are reports that two prominent Iranian news anchors have quit their jobs in protest following the Islamic Republic’s downing of a Ukranian airplane. A third, also a woman, who left her job some time ago, begged Iranians to "forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies."
Speaking candidly on BBC Radio Today, Ghanbar Naderi, a commentator on Iran’s state-run Press TV, admitted: “There is little trust in the government and people want more freedom. The lies they said about the shooting down of the aeroplane [have] lost public trust. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps know it very well.”
By all accounts, sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018 have hit Iran's economy extremely hard and are playing a role in sparking protests. It's never fully clear how those sorts of intervention, much less more militaristic actions such as the killing of Soleimani, play out—sometimes overt pressure applied by an outside power emboldens dissent and sometimes it decreases it. But when a country starts to get hollowed out from within, as seems to be the case with Alizadeh's exile and other recent and ongoing domestic developments, autocrats should start sweating.