Afghan Paralympians unable to leave country, compete in Summer Games after Taliban takeover

·2 min read

With unrest in Afghanistan following the Taliban's seizure of the country, a pair of Paralympians are trapped in the capital city of Kabul and unable to compete in the Summer Games.

Zakia Khudadadi, a 23-year-old taekwondo fighter, and Hossain Rasouli, a 24-yera-old track and field athlete, were set to be the two athletes representing Afghanistan in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

"Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo," a spokesperson for the International Paralympic Committee said, according to the Washington Post. "We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time."

Khudadadi was going to become Afghanistan's first-ever female Paralympian. Afghan chef de mission Arian Sadiqi told Reuters that the Paralympians had been trying to secure flights out of Kabul, but that prices spiked after the Taliban started to take control of several cities in Afghanistan.

"They were really excited prior to the situation. They were training wherever they could, in the parks and back gardens," Sadiqi told Reuters. "This would have been the first female Afghan taekwondo player to take part. This was history in the making. She was very passionate to compete. Zakia would have been a great role model for the rest of the females in the country."

On Sunday, embattled President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul, and American troops scrambled to evacuate thousands of U.S. diplomats and Afghans from the U.S. Embassy.

The collapse of the Afghan government came after the U.S. continued its withdrawal of forces from the country and after two decades American efforts to reshape the region as part of its "war on terror."

2020 Paralympic mascot "Someity" stands at stage during their debut event in Tokyo.
2020 Paralympic mascot "Someity" stands at stage during their debut event in Tokyo.

Sadiqi told the Washington Post in an electronic exchange that he has been unable to reach Khudadadi and Rasouli because of power and network outages.

“I believe both are in Kabul somewhere,” Sadiqi wrote the Post, “but I am unsure of their welfare and safety to say the least given the current instability in the country!”

An article posted to the International Paralympic Committee's website that profiles the athletes mentions how both had limited resources to train. Rasouli, for example, was "mainly restricted to his backyard or on the hills nearby" for his training regimen.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"I just want to be there with the other athletes from the world and give my best," Kudadadi said in the article. "It is an opportunity to show my ability and I will be so proud to stand with all of those athletes."

Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen and Michael Collins

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Afghan Paralympians unable to compete in Tokyo after Taliban takeover