Afghanistan’s Chef de Mission for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Arian Sadiqi, released a statement on his Facebook page calling for the global community to help evacuate the Paralympic athletes from the country.
In an exclusive conversation with The National, Sadiqi also said he was in contact with 12 para-athletes who are messaging him every day, asking for ways to leave the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. He is concerned particularly about the female competitors.
“They tell me, they are stuck at home [and] cannot go training any more or study at college or university. I see no future for them and they will suffer in silence if it goes on,” said Sadiqi.
He went on to say that under the rule of the Taliban, para-athletes are being forced to stay in their homes, as if under house arrest. In a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday he called on the international community to act: “There’s no point in showing solidarity on social media pages without [a] measurable and achievable action plan in place.”
Fears first arose regarding the safety and the future of Afghanistan's para-athletes, after the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee (APC) announced in August that it would not be able to send their para-athletes to the games due to start later in the month.
The following day, Afghanistan’s first female para-Taekwondo athlete, Zakia Khudadadi, released an emotional video plea, saying that she was unable to leave her home following the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.
However, Khudadadai and Hossain Rasouli surprised the world when they turned up in time to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Many elite athletes have already left Afghanistan. The Olympic Games flag-bearers, Kamia Yousufi and Farzad Mansouri, were among the 114,000 Afghans evacuated before the August 31 deadline for the US withdrawal.
Last week, an Afghan female football team fled across the border into Pakistan after the Taliban reportedly barred their participation in sport.
The Taliban has said that anyone who wants to leave Afghanistan and has valid travel documents is free to go, however the processes needed to leave the country legally are reportedly both lengthy and complex.
Sadiqi is calling for urgency in the hope that the future of the para-athletes can be saved. “If you really care for the girls/women of Afghanistan then let’s do something about it rather than exacerbating their pains and suffering,” he said in his statement. “The time is now!”