For hope, peace, and solidarity - Afghan team arrives in Tokyo to compete at the Paralympic Games

The Afghanistan Paralympic Team, represented by Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, arrived in the Japanese capital on Saturday ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The Afghanistan Paralympic Team, represented by Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, arrived in the Japanese capital on Saturday (28 August) ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

With global support from several individuals, organisations and governments, the pair were evacuated last weekend from Kabul to Paris, France.

This week the athletes have been resting and training in Paris at the National Institute of Sports Expertise and Performance (INSEP), the French sports ministry high performance training centre.

With a desire from both athletes to compete at Tokyo 2020, the pair arrived in the Japanese capital on Saturday. In line with the rules of the Playbooks Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli returned two negative PCR tests for COVID-19 in the 96 hours and 72 hours before departure and were tested once again upon arrival at Haneda Airport.

They were warmly welcomed to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Village on Saturday (28 August) evening by IPC President Andrew Parsons and IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson Chelsey Gotell.

“Twelve days ago we were informed that the Afghan Paralympic Team could not travel to Tokyo, a move that broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic Movement and left both athletes devastated. That announcement kickstarted a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan, their recuperation in France, and now their safe arrival in Tokyo," said IPC President Andrew Parsons.

"We always knew there was a remote chance both athletes could participate at Tokyo 2020 which is why the Afghan flag was paraded at Tuesday's Opening Ceremony. Like all the athletes here at Tokyo 2020, we never gave up hope and to now have Zakia and Hossain in the Paralympic Village alongside 4,403 other Paralympians shows the remarkable power of sport to bring people together in peace."

Zakia will be Afghanistan’s first female athlete to compete at the Paralympic Games since Athens 2004 when she competes in the women’s K44 -49kg weight category in taekwondo on 2 September.

Afghan paralympic athlete, Zakia Khudadadi, before she escaped from Afghanistan. This is a still image taken from a video shot August 17, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: Zakia Khudadadi via REUTERS

Hossain, who was originally due to participate in the men’s 100m T47 on Saturday 28 August will now line-up in the heats of the men’s 400m T47 athletics event on Friday 3 September.

Through their participation in the Games and performances on the field-of-play, the athletes call for hope, peace and solidarity for the people of Afghanistan and the world.

In a press release the Afghan Paralympic Committee expressed its deep appreciation to all the organisations that have provided support to the athletes and made their dreams possible, including several governments, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Human Rights for All, French Paralympic Committee, British Paralympic Association, and World Taekwondo.

Arian Sadiqi, Chef de Mission of the Afghan Paralympic Team, said: “I strongly believe that, through the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games, we all can deliver the positive message that peaceful co-existence is best for humanity, that we should celebrate our differences knowing that we have more in common than that which divides us, and that we should keep and cherish peace because quarrels and negative feeling only destroy humankind.”