Historic first appearance of a female athlete from Afghanistan at the Paralympics will no longer happen at Tokyo 2020 after the Taliban swept to power.
Afghanistan was due to be represented by two taekwondo players at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics – where the sport is making its Games debut – including Zakia Khudadadi.
Afghan capital Kabul has fallen to the Taliban and the group has declared victory, saying it intends establish international relations and form a new Government.
Kabul’s airport is closed to commercial flights but thousands are there attempting to flee the country, with several people losing their lives amid the chaos and terror.
Reuters reports that five people died after American troops fired into the air – although it is not clear if they died from gunshots or following a stampede – while others have fallen to their deaths after desperately clinging to aircraft that took off.
“Regrettably NPC Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” an International Paralympic Committee spokesperson said.
I am very honoured and privileged to have been asked to take the role of the Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Insha Allah, I will give everything I can to this vital role…Insha Allah #olympic #olympicgames #paralympics #sports #Afghanistan #NPCafghanistan pic.twitter.com/0g1MweqtSK
“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.”
Khudadadi was set to be the nation’s first female Paralympian, while fellow taekwondo athlete Hossain Rasouli also had a Tokyo 2020 berth.
“It was a dream for NPC Afghanistan to attend the Tokyo 2020 but with these unfortunate circumstances it’s close to impossible”, Chef de Mission Arian Sadiqi said on Twitter.
The Taliban – removed from power in 2001 – is an Islamist group that believes in Sharia law and vigorously restricts the freedoms of women.
Female employees in some areas taken over by the group have been told not to return to their jobs, while in others women must wear a burqa if they leave home, and must be accompanied by a male guardian.
The group sees women’s sport as un-Islamic and its return to power is likely to be disastrous for women’s sport in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan sent one athlete to the Rio 2016 Paralympics and has appeared at each of the last four Summer Games.