Who is Zakia Khudadadi? Afghanistan's first female Paralympian, 23, can no longer go to Tokyo
Even a week ago, Zakia Khudadadi did not imagine that her lifelong dream would be crushed by the Taliban. The 23-year-old was all set to become Afghanistan's first female Paralympian, representing her country at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. However, with the Taliban taking over the reins of Afghanistan, Khudadadi's athletic aspirations came to an unprecedented halt.
As Taliban forces decreed a complete shutdown on commercial flights and travel, Zakia Khudadadi and other athletes can no longer travel to Tokyo to participate in the Paralympic Games starting from August 24. A spokesperson from the International Paralympic Committee stated, "Regrettably NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo. We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time."
Arian Sadiqi, the Chef de Mission for the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee, told The Telegraph, "The National Paralympic Committee of Afghanistan’s team (NPC) was due to fly out to Tokyo 2020 to compete in the Paralympic Games. But, unfortunately, due to the current upheaval going on in Afghanistan, Zakia Khudadadi and the team could not leave Kabul in time." He added, "This current situation has left the Afghan nation speechless and have shattered many dreams and hopes for peace and prosperity in the country."
Who is Zakia Khudadadi?
Zakia Khudadadi is an Afghan para-athlete who qualified for Paralympic Games to compete in the Taekwondo cmaking a debut at the Games. She was scheduled to compete in Tokyo next week and had time and again expressed her happiness about the same. "This is the first time that a female athlete will be representing Afghanistan at the Games and I’m so happy. I just want to be there with the other athletes from the world and give my best. It is an opportunity to show my ability and I will be so proud to stand with all of those athletes," she said in a video tweeted on August 10, 2021.
Khudadadi, who has only one functional arm, would have participated in Para-Taekwondo alongside his male counterpart Hossain Rasouli. However, now the entire Afghan Paralympic delegation is trapped in the country with an uncertain future. The situation is especially grim for young female athletes like Khudadadi, who got the opportunity to pursue sports after the Taliban retreated from the country in 2001.
Khudadadi had won the first African 2016 Para-Taekwondo Championships in Egypt at the age of 18 years. She was thereby awarded a wildcard to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in the K44 classification. The young athlete was inspired by two-time Bronze medalist Rohullah Nikpai, an Afghan taekwondo player who won two consecutive bronzes in the Men's 58 kg event in Beijing 2008 and the Men's 68 kg in London 2012.
Khudadadi's present whereabouts are uncertain amid the countrywide chaos, as reports of Taliban imposing draconian restrictions on women have already surfaced.