Turmoil in Afghanistan shuts down first female Afghan Paralympian's flight to Tokyo

·1 min read

It's hardly the most distressing news to come out of Afghanistan as the Taliban cements its control over the country following the exit of the U.S. military, but it's heartbreaking nonetheless.

The International Paralympic Committee announced Monday that the athletes from Afghanistan, including the first female Paralympian in the country's history, will not be taking part in the Games due to the turmoil in their country, according to Aljazeera:

“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.”

Only two Afghan Paralympians were set to make the trip to Tokyo. One of them, taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, would have been the first woman to represent the country in the Paralympic Games. Track athlete Hossain Rasouli will also miss out on competing.

Per Reuters, the pair were scheduled to fly to Japan on Monday. That's no longer happening as thousands of people mob Kabul's major airport while attempting to escape Taliban rule.

Previously under the Taliban, Afghanistan barely had a presence in international athletic competition, especially when it came to female athletes. Afghanistan Paralympic Committee chief Arian Sadiqi expects a similar dynamic for the future:

"For me, it's heartbreaking," he said. "This would have been the first female Afghan taekwondo player to take part. This was history in the making. She was excited to take part. She was very passionate to compete.

"Zakia would have been a great role model for the rest of the females in the country."

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