Afghan athlete Zakia Khudadadi made an emotional plea on 18 August, urging the global institutions for the protection of women to “help her” as she sought to escape Kabul to participate in the upcoming Paralympic Games.
Khudadadi, a 23-year-old athlete from Herat, would have been the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics but she couldn’t travel to Japan due to the ongoing political crisis in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taekwondo athlete and discus thrower Hossain Rasouli were scheduled to compete in the Para Games in Tokyo, to be held between 24 August and 5 September. Khudadadi was due to fly to Japan on 16 August while the team had been scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on the 17th.
The Taliban told reporters at their first official news conference in Kabul on 17 August that they would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law. However, Khudadadi’s Paralympics fate remains unclear.
In a video message from Kabul sent to media by the APC’s London-based Chef de Mission Arian Sadiqi, Khodadadi said that she felt “imprisoned”, staying with extended family but unable to leave the house with confidence to train, shop or check on others.
In the video, Khodadadi can be heard speaking in Farsi, but as per the loose translation, she said she felt an additional burden to her relations who did not have enough food to feed their children.
“I request from you all, that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me. My intention is to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, please hold my hand and help me,” she said.
“I urge you all, from the women around the globe, institutions for the protection of women, from all government organisations, to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away so easily,” she said.
“The fact that we ourselves have lifted ourselves from this situation, that we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly. I have suffered a lot, I don’t want my struggle to be in vain and without any results. Help me,” she said.
Previously, Arian Sadiqi told that the team “could not leave Kabul in time”. “Unfortunately due to the current upheaval going on in Afghanistan the team could not leave Kabul in time,” Sadiqi said.
He further added that the Afghan athletes had been trying to secure flights but the prices soared as the Taliban took over a string of cities.
“They were really excited prior to the situation. They were training wherever they could, in the parks and back gardens,” he said.
The Afghan athlete Zakia Khudadadi was profiled on the Paralympic website last week talking about her hopes for the Games.
Her profile stated,”I was thrilled after I received the news that I have got a wild card to compete at the Games. This is the first time that a female athlete will be representing Afghanistan at the Games and I’m so happy. I just want to be there with the other athletes from the world and give my best. It is an opportunity to show my ability and I will be so proud to stand with all of those athlete.”
The International Paralympic Committee on 16 August confirmed that both the athletes would no longer be able to travel to Japan.
“Regrettably NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence said.
“Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo.”
“We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time,” Spence said.