Afghanistan’s two Paralympic athletes will not participate in the Tokyo Games next week due to the Taliban takeover, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced on Aug. 16.
Taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and track athlete Hossain Rasouli were set to arrive in Japan on Aug. 17 for the Tokyo Paralympics beginning on Aug. 24. However, the recent Afghan territorial gains by Taliban militants have left the athletes trapped in the war-torn country.
“Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo,” ICP Spokesperson Craig Spence confirmed.
“We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time,” Spence further said.
Afghanistan Paralympic Committee’s Chef de Mission Arian Sadiqi told BBC Sport that opting out of the Games was “devastating.”
“The whole situation became very chaotic very rapidly, so we had no choice but to opt out from the Games because there were no commercial flights in or out of Afghanistan, except the military bases, I believe,” Sadiqi, who is based in London, said.
“This was history in the making. We were going to make history,” Sadiqi further said, referring to Khudadadi, who was set to become the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics.
“We wanted to use her as a role model for the rest of the female athletes, especially para-athletes,” Sadiqi said.
Last week, Khudadadi said that she was “thrilled” to compete at the Games.
Sadiqi further told BBC Sport that the team had tried to secure flights, but prices soared as the Taliban took control of several cities.
Last week, Sadiqi said that participating in the Games would “deliver the message of coexistence for humanity.”
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