Afghanistan’s Paralympic team will not participate in the Tokyo Games next week because they are trapped in the country, the International Paralympic Committee said Monday.
The Taliban have in recent days capped a military victory that saw them bring a swift end to the 20-year war in the country.
Just two Para athletes from Afghanistan were scheduled to compete in the Games – taekwondo competitors Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli.
Khudadadi, 23, was to be the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics.
But the IPC confirmed on Monday that with the Taliban takeover, the two athletes would no longer be able to travel to Japan.
“Regrettably NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence said.
“Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo.”
There was no word on whether the IPC had been asked to try to assist team members, or was making efforts to do so.
“We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time,” Spence said.
Just one week ago, the two athletes were profiled on the IPC’s website, with the country’s chef de mission Arian Sadiqi saying the Games offered a chance to “deliver the message of coexistence for humanity”.
Australian Paralympian Kurt Fearnley tweeted: “Being a part of the International Paralympic family, you feel so connected & the world feels small. But I haven’t felt as distant and useless then when it comes to Zakia Khudadadi.”
Canadian Olympian Jill Moffatt posted: “Absolutely heartbreaking for Zakia Khudadadi and women in sport. This would’ve been such a historic moment. My heart goes to her and all of the women who are now facing a new reality.”
With Afghanistan firmly back under the control of the Taliban again, the world is anxiously waiting to see what the militant group plans to do with the nation.
It’s been 20 years since the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan after the US forced it to flee Kabul in 2001, due to the support it gave al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Fears are growing the Taliban is already reintroducing its brutal way of life to Afghanistan.
There are reports Taliban fighters are going door-to-door in Kabul, searching for female journalists.
And Diversity Council Australia Director Mariam Veiszadeh, whose sister-in-law’s sister lives in Afghanistan, said she had heard reports of bashings.
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Peter Dutton has warned the Taliban “the world is watching” and Australia stands ready to act if terror takes hold in Afghanistan.
Mr Dutton challenged the Taliban to abandon its “barbaric” treatment of women and girls after regaining control of the war-torn country.
“The test is now on them and they need to perform,” he told the ABC on Tuesday night.
The defence minister also demanded allied forces be allowed to safely leave Afghanistan.
Experts have warned the situation in Afghanistan will be a “massive morale boost” for every jihadist on the planet.
Asked whether that suggested a new level of threat for Australia, Mr Dutton urged people to heed the words of US President Joe Biden.
“He was very clear that if another threat similar to al-Qaeda or to Osama bin Laden and the 9-11 attacks, if that manifests itself in Afghanistan … then the United States will strike,” Mr Dutton said.
“And so they should, and we would be supportive of them in disrupting any major terrorist attack, whether it was in the West or elsewhere.
“The United States has the ability in the air, on the ground, to conduct such an attack and people should be hearing that message loud and clear.”
– with Natalie Wolfe, NCA NewsWire & AFP