Zakia Khudadadi was set to be the first woman to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games this month in Tokyo. That will no longer be the case after her lifelong dream was shattered as a result of the Taliban’s conquest of the country.
As U.S. military forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban has asserted control over large parts of the country in astonishing speed. On Sunday, Taliban fighters swept through the capital city of Kabul as the U.S.-backed government collapsed, leading to a chaotic and desperate situation for millions.
Scenes of panic and chaos played out at the airport in Kabul as crowds of people desperate to escape Afghanistan rushed onto the tarmac.— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 16, 2021
Some clung to the sides of planes, even as one taxied down the runway, in a bid to flee the Taliban.https://t.co/pAgoGW7tos pic.twitter.com/4YGQd2iEzk
The 23-year-old was given a wildcard to compete in Taekwondo but due to the serious ongoing situation in Afghanistan, all airports are closed and there is no possibility for Khudadadi to travel to Tokyo. This was confirmed by the International Paralympics Committee.
“Regrettably, NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo.”
Trailblazer Khudadadi was profiled on the Paralympic website just last week where she spoke of her sheer delight and hopes for the Games.
“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,” she told the Paralympic Committee website.
Khudadadi has been winning Championships since she was 18 and this would have represented a huge step forward in women’s sport in the country. However, the sad reality is that if the Taliban do revert back to their pre-2001 rule, Khudadadi and all other female athletes won’t be allowed participate at all.
Under the Taliban’s rule pre-2001, girls were barred from completing their education, playing sport or holding a job. There is widespread concern women will be subjected to the same treatment and archaic restrictions the former regime imposed.