The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have announced the six athletes who will represent the Refugee Paralympic Team at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.
The names of the athletes, including one woman and five men, are Ibrahim Al Hussein, Alia Issa, Parfait Hakizimana, Abbas Karimi, Shahrad Nasajpour and Anas Al Khalifa. They will compete in Para athletics, Para swimming, Para canoe and Para taekwondo under the IPC flag, and will be the first team to enter Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony on 24 August.
President of the IPC, Andrew Parsons, welcomed the announcement of the Refugee Paralympic Team and the power of sport to promote the inclusion of refugees with disabilities in society.
"I would urge people everywhere to support the world’s most courageous sports team, the Refugee Paralympic Team," he said. "These athletes exemplify how change starts with sport: they have suffered life-changing injuries, fled for their safety and undertaken dangerous journeys, but despite the many barriers put in their way, they have become elite athletes ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
"Sport is a powerful tool to include refugees with disabilities in society and the announcement of the Refugee Paralympic Team is a poignant moment for the IPC – we are delivering on a commitment we made at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to promote equal participation in sporting events for refugees."
Tokyo 2020 President HASHIMOTO Seiko was equally supportive, saying: "The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee welcomes the participation of the Refugee Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, following its debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
"I hope that the Refugee Team will show the world the endeavour, the resilience and the hope of human beings through sporting competition, and that they will perform at their best with a wish for peace. We will continue to cooperate with the IPC and relevant local municipalities, and will make every effort to ensure everything proceeds smoothly and safely for the Refugee Team."
Stars unite to unveil the Refugee Paralympic Team
The Refugee Paralympic Team was announced via a star-studded video featuring celebrities from the worlds of music, sport, literature, stage and screen who support the refugee cause. Ibrahim Al Hussein, a Syrian refugee currently living in Greece, was announced by Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay. Al Hussein will compete in the Para swimming competition at Tokyo 2020.
Alia Issa, a Syrian refugee who also lives in Greece and will compete in club throw, was announced by British actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Para taekwondo athlete Parfait Hakizimana*, a Burundian refugee living in the Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda, was announced by opera singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks.
Para swimmer Abbas Karimi, an Afghan refugee living in Fort Lauderdale, USA, was announced by best-selling author Khaled Hosseini - who is himself an Afghan refugee.
Anas Al Khalifa, a Syrian refugee living in Halle, Germany who will compete in the Para canoe competition, was announced by footballer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Asmir Begovic, who was forced to flee his home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina at a young age.
The final member of the team is Shahrad Nasajpour, an Iranian refugee who now resides in Phoenix, USA and will compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics discus competition. He was announced by Canadian Bayern Munich footballer Alphonso Davies, who is himself a refugee.
The Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 take place between 24 August and 5 September 2021.
*Parfait’s participation in the Games is subject to him being classified by 1 August 2021.