Paralympics-Female Afghan athlete makes plea for help to get to Tokyo

·2-min read
Logo of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

By Iain Axon

LONDON (Reuters) - Afghan athlete Zakia Khudadadi made a plea for help on Tuesday as she sought to escape Kabul and revive her shattered dream of becoming the country's first female competitor at a Paralympic Games.

The Afghanistan Paralympic Committee (APC) said on Monday the country's two para-athletes would not be at the Games starting in Tokyo on Aug. 24 due to turmoil following the Taliban's takeover.

The insurgents have overrun major cities and now control most of Afghanistan.

Para-taekwondo athlete Khodadadi said in a video message from Kabul provided to Reuters by the APC's London-based Chef de Mission Arian Sadiqi that she felt "imprisoned", staying with extended family but unable to go outside with confidence to train, shop or check on others.

Speaking in Farsi, and translated by Reuters, she said she felt an additional burden to her relations who did not have enough food to feed their own children.

"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 said.

"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 organisations, to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away so easily.

"The fact that we ourselves have lifted ourselves from this situation, that we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly. I have suffered a lot, I don’t want my struggle to be in vain and without any results. Help me."

Khodadadi, 23, and track athlete Hossain Rasouli had been scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Tuesday but were unable to fly out.

The Taliban told reporters at their first official news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that they would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

The news conference came as the United States and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians and followed scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban thronged to the terminal.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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