Zakia Khudadadi’s Hopes Of Becoming First Afghan Female Paralympian Are Dashed By Taliban Takeover - Women's Health

Zakia Khudadadi’s Hopes Of Becoming First Afghan Female Paralympian Are Dashed By Taliban Takeover

The athletes destined for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have now come to find themselves stranded in Afghanistan, with little hope of making it out of the country and to the Paralympic Games.

by | Aug 18, 2021

International Paralympic Committee

For so many, the dream of competing at the Olympics is but a pipe-dream, something to be entertained but rarely thought of as a potential reality. But for those willing to make sacrifices and put in consistent hours of hard work, the Games are the pinnacle of all they are working towards and hope to achieve. It’s devastating then, that for Afghanistan’s Paralympic team, hopes of competing at the Tokyo Paralympic Games have been dashed. The world has watched with heartbreak and mounting concern as the Taliban seize control of the country. Images coming out of Afghanistan depict people with expressions of fear, desperate to get out and escape the grim future that awaits them. For women and girls especially, the situation is particularly dangerous.  

Following the Taliban’s conquest of the country, it’s been announced that Afghanistan will not compete at this month’s Paralympics in Tokyo as those athletes on the team have been unable to leave Kabul. One such athlete is Zakia Khudadadi, who was set to become the country’s first female Paralympian when the taekwondo fighter was named alongside discus thrower Hossain Rasouli in a two-person team. Neither athlete has been able to take their scheduled flight out of Afghanistan. 

The pair were expected to arrive in Tokyo on Tuesday. As the Afghan chef de mission, Arian Sadiqi, explained to Reuters, “Unfortunately due to the current upheaval going on in Afghanistan the team could not leave Kbul in time.” While the athletes had been trying to secure flights, following the Taliban’s takeover, prices began to soar and the prospect of getting out of the country became impossible. 

“They were really excited prior to the situation. They were training wherever they could, in the parks and back gardens,” said Sadiqi. “This would have been the first female Afghan taekwondo player to take part. This was history in the making. She was very passionate to compete. Zakia would have been a great role model for the rest of the females in the country.”

The future for athletes – and the country at large – now seems uncertain. “There was a lot of progress [in recent decades], both in the Olympics and the Paralympics,” said Sadiqi. “At the national level there was a lot of participants, a lot of athletes…but we can only predict from what happened in the past.”

Sadiqi added, “Previously during the Taliban era people couldn’t compete, couldn’t participate, especially female athletes. For me, it’s heartbreaking.”

To read more about the situation in Afghanistan and how you can help support the efforts of organisations and the protection of women and girls now under Taliban rule, read our guide below. 

The Future For Women In Afghanistan Is Uncertain, Here’s How You Can Help

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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