Who will represent Afghanistan at the Paris Olympics and how?

Afghanistan's Fazalhaq Farooqi bowls during the T20 World Cup (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Afghanistan's Fazalhaq Farooqi bowls during the T20 World Cup (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

A gender-balanced team of three men and three women will represent Afghanistan in Paris next month in a symbolic move for the first summer Olympics since the Taliban surged to power.

The Taliban government has imposed curbs on women and girls condemned by the United Nations as "gender apartheid" and has not been recognised by any country since its 2021 takeover, complicating Afghanistan's role in international sport.

Here are some key questions about Afghans' participation at the Games in the French capital.

How many and which Afghans are going?

Afghanistan will field a team of three women and three men, the IOC said last week.

The women will compete in athletics and cycling while their male counterparts will feature in athletics, swimming and judo.

Their names have not been released.

The chief executive of Afghanistan's national Olympic committee (NOC), Dad Mohammad Payenda Akhtari, told AFP all of the athletes, except the judoka, were based outside Afghanistan.

Their names would be given in the coming days, he said.

"As all women's sports are suspended in Afghanistan, (the women athletes) who were put forward were not introduced from inside the country," said the CEO, who is based in Kabul.

"All of them are abroad, they are coordinated and organised by the IOC," he added, noting that the IOC was supplying financial support for most of the Afghan athletes.

What flag will they compete under?

The Afghan athletes will compete under the black, red and green flag and anthem of the Western-backed former republic, which was ousted by the Taliban in August 2021.

The Taliban government is not recognised by any other state and its white and black flag does not feature on Afghan passports or uniforms of sports teams competing internationally.

What have the Taliban said?

The Taliban government has regularly said that it supports athletes representing Afghanistan in international competition.

This does not extend to women, who have been de facto barred from sports as part of rules that have restricted their access to parks and gyms, as well as education and certain jobs.

Akhtari said the Afghan NOC coordinates with the Taliban sports authorities. However the IOC specified it has only engaged with NOC officials, including the president and secretary-general, who are in exile.

"No representative of the de facto authorities, the Taliban government, will be accredited" for the Olympics, said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

What happens in other sports?

Afghanistan continues to compete internationally, including on high-level stages such as the on-going cricket T20 World Cup and the Asian Games.

The national cricket team bears the flag of the former republic on its kit, but the cricket board is still based in Kabul.

Last year's Asian Games saw male athletes travel from Afghanistan to compete, with foreign-based Afghan women competitors also taking part.

What about the Beijing 2022 Winter Games?

While several Afghan athletes, including two skiers, have had winter Olympic ambitions, Afghan athletes have never appeared at a Winter Games.

Afghan Paralympic athletes Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi carried the ousted government's flag at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2021, which opened just over a week after the Taliban takeover, delaying the competitors' departure.

The pair arrived in Tokyo for the Games after being evacuated from Taliban-controlled Kabul.

Will Afghans also compete for the Olympic refugee team?

Afghanistan will also have representatives in the Refugee Olympic Team, led by Masomah Ali Zada, who competed in road cycling as a member of the team at the Tokyo Games.

The team includes five Afghans -- three men and two women -- competing in road cycling, judo, taekwondo and break dancing.

Athletes in the team need to have confirmed refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency.