“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.
Update: Khudadadi's words were heard and over the weekend she was quietly rescued by Australian. Here's how it happened.
According to the ABC, Olympian Nikki Dryden, who works as a human rights lawyer, and Alison Battisson, the director of Human Rights for All, identified a group of 50 most at-risk athletes and their dependants that needed help and worked with the Swiss-based Centre for Sport and Human Rights to call on governments to support in any way they could.
Thanks to support from connections like Australian wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and former Winter Olympian and member of the Federal Parliament, Zali Steggall, within just three days, the Australian government agreed to accept the athletes.
Then came time the task of actually getting them out of Afghanistan.
Dryden teamed up with the CEO of Intelligent Risks, Neil Fergus, who was in charge of controlling the negotiations. Meanwhile, on the ground, the athletes had to make their way to Kabul airport on Sunday, which given the unfolding events and the chaotic images shared on our news feeds, was an incredibly difficult task.
At one point, the athletes had become separated from the rest of the group and there was a risk of losing their opportunity to get through the security gates and terminal.
A series of WhatsApp messages published by the ABC chronicles just how stressful the situation was, as the athletes and their dependents made their way to the gate.
Unfortunately, even after reaching the gate, they were tuned back not one but twice.
Foster then contacted the government who passed on the message to let them through. In the end, 50 Afghan athletes and dependants were rescued thanks to the unbelievable efforts of key players in Australia and on the ground in Afghanistan.