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The woman set to become Afghanistan’s first female competitor at a Paralympics has pleaded for help after seeing her dream snatched away from her.
Zakia Khudadadi was set to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics beginning next week but, following the Taliban’s rapid return to power in the country, it was announced that Afghanistan would not be sending any athletes to the games.
The Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul on Sunday after the US began withdrawing its forces from the area. As chaotic scenes unfolded at the city’s airport, all flights were grounded Monday.
The airport has since reopened, but no commercial flights are leaving, meaning that Khudadadi and her teammate Hossain Rasouli are stuck in Afghanistan.
Khudadadi, however, has not yet given up on her dream of making the Paralympics, which start next Tuesday, August 24.
“I request from you all that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me,” she told Reuters in Farsi via a translator.
“My intention is to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, please hold my hand and help me.
“I urge you all, from the women around the globe, institutions for the protection of women, from all government organizations, to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement be taken away so easily,” she added.
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) August 10, 2021
23-year-old Khudadadi competes in taekwondo, and will be the first ever woman from her home country to appear at a Paralympics if she is able to find a way to Tokyo.
Athletes from Afghanistan have competed in every Paralympics since 2004, the first games after the fall of the Taliban following a NATO campaign in the country.
Previously the country had been banned from competing international in recognition of the brutal regime of the Taliban, which marginalized women and, among other things, prevented them from being formally educated.
“The fact that we ourselves have lifted ourselves from this situation, that we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly,” Khudadadi said.
“I have suffered a lot, I don’t want my struggle to be in vain and without any results. Help me.”