Key questions answered on 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
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Since the Taliban reclaimed control of the nation, the country’s flag has been marked as a symbol of defiance for many.
Due to the current crisis, Afghan athletes were unable to make it to Japan to compete as flights from Kabul, the nation’s capital, were cancelled.
Thousands of Afghan citizens have been trying to leave the country as the Taliban seized back control, and the political instability and turmoil have resulted in the athletes being unable to participate in this year’s Paralympic Games.
The waving of the flag has been heralded as a “sign of solidarity” for the athletes withdrawn from the Games by The Afghanistan Paralympic Committee.
The flights of para-taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and discus thrower Hossain Rasouli were among those stopped from leaving Kabul, but it was decided that the flag would be represented in Japan as “an act of solidarity and peace” for the struggling nation.
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons referred to the gesture earlier this week saying: “We will include the Afghanistan flag in the Ceremony in a sign of solidarity.
“It is important to highlight that as it is a message of solidarity and peace that we send to the world.
“We would like to have them here, unfortunately it is not possible, but they will be here in spirit.”
The gesture of the flag being waved by a volunteer during the opening ceremony as no athletes could accompany it, was referred to as “heartbreaking” by TV critic and broadcaster Scott Bryan in a tweet to his 61.4k followers.
One user said it was “very touching”, a second commented they hoped the athletes unable to attend could “find refuge in a safe location soon”, while a third simply said “we’re all thinking of you Afghanistan”.
23-year-old Zakia Khudadadi was set to be the first-ever female athlete to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games.
In a clip provided to Reuters last week, Ms Khudadadi spoke in Farsi and said she felt “imprisoned” and sought help to reach the Games ahead of today’s opening ceremony.
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In her plea, she said: “I request from you all that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me.
“My intention is to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, please hold my hand and help me.”
In the video she also said: “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.”
Unfortunately the para-taekwondo athlete and 24-year-old discus thrower, Hossain Rasouli who lost his left arm in a mine blast and was set to make his Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020, were forced to withdraw.
On August 10, in an interview for the Paralympics website, Mr Rasouli said that it was “a dream” to be participating in the Games and that he wanted to win a medal for his country.
The Refugee Paralympic Team is hoping to instill a message of hope though, as amid their six athletes includes Afghan refugee and swimmer Abbas Karimi.
The swimmer, who was born without arms in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, fled the conflict aged 16 in 2013.
In an interview with the International Paralympic Committee, Abbas Karimi said “I want to make the podium in Tokyo. I’m not just going there to compete. I hate losing.
“When I make the podium, I’m going to make a lot of refugees around the world happy. For me, I’ll feel like I’m a lion, someone who always fights hard and never gives up no matter what.”
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