Zakia Khudadadi was set to be the first woman to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games. Following the Taliban’s conquest over the country, her lifelong dream along has been shattered and the future of women’s sport in the country is in limbo.
Under the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, girls were banned from completing their education after the age of 10 years old. Girls and women were forbidden from playing sport or holding a job.
Zakia Khudadadi, a taekwondo athlete, was given a wildcard to compete at the Paralympic Games. However, she has been prevented from traveling to the Games in Tokyo that begin next week.
‘The fact that … we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly.’
— The National (@TheNationalNews) August 18, 2021
Khudadadi has released a video pleading for help.
“I am currently imprisoned inside the house. I cannot even go outside around this house with confidence. My intention is to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Please hold my hand and help me.”
Khudadadi would have been the first Afghan woman to participate in the Paralympic Games and this would have represented a huge step forward in the push for equality in the country.
“Please, I request you all — especially all the women from around the globe and the female institutions and the United Nations to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away so easily,” Khudadadi added.
With the situation in Afghanistan remains uncertain, a number of sportswomen in the country are hiding for their own safety.
Former Afghanistan football captain Khalida Popal was part of the first Afghanistan women’s football team. Popal told the Associated Press that her former teammates are hiding in fear of their lives and safety.
“They are hiding away, she said. “Most of them left their houses to go to relatives and hide because their neighbours know they are players. They are sitting, they are afraid. The Taliban is all over. They are going around creating fear,
Former Afghan women's soccer captain Khalida Popal had always used her voice to encourage young women ‘to be bold, to be visible.’ But now, she has a different message for players: delete social media, erase your public identity and burn your uniforms https://t.co/VqlioYYhky pic.twitter.com/1RFk6KR6Rq
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 19, 2021