Afghan athlete debuts at the Paralympics after secret exit from the country

Afghan Zakia Khudadadi competed in the Paralympic Games this Thursday (2) and became the first woman from her country to do so since Athens 2004, after a secret international effort to help the taekwondo athlete leave Kabul today controlled by the Taliban.

The 22-year-old sportswoman and her compatriot Hossain Rasouli arrived in Tokyo Saturday via Paris after Khudadadi recorded a video calling for help to leave the capital of Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s rise to power.

This Thursday, Khudadadi entered Chiba’s Makuhari Messe competition arena wearing a white hijab for the first match of the sport’s Paralympic debut. She was the second woman to compete for her country in the Paralympics, which began in 1960.

Khudadadi did not speak to reporters after his two fights, which he lost. Rasouli competed in the men’s long jump on Tuesday. The two athletes said they didn’t want to talk to the media.

“I’m concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, but I’m very happy that she was able to come and compete with me,” Ukrainian Viktoriia Marchuk told reporters after beating Khudadadi in the play-off.

It was not immediately clear what the Afghan athletes planned to do after the Paralympics, but Alison Battisson of Human Rights for All, who was involved in their withdrawal, told Reuters that Australia had granted them humanitarian visas.

In the August 17 video, Khudadadi said: “I don’t want my fight to be in vain and without any result.”