Former Socceroo and human rights activist Craig Foster confirmed to the Nine Network on Aug. 29 that Australia had granted humanitarian visas to these two athletes.
While no details about where they will be settled have been known yet, Foster thanked on Twitter those involved, including Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, Sports Minister Richard Colbeck, and independent MP Zali Steggall, a former winter Olympian for their efforts.
Taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and track athlete Hossain Rasouli planned to arrive in Japan on Aug. 17 but were trapped in Afghan amid the chaos triggered by the Taliban’s comeback, with thousands of people rushing to the capital airport trying to flee the country.
Khudadadi then made a video appeal asking for public help.
“I request from you all, that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me,” the female athlete said in the video.
“That announcement kickstarted a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan,” Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said in a statement.
The duo arrived at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Village on Saturday (Aug.28) night with a flight from Paris.
“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of several Governments, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, Human Rights for All, the French Paralympic Committee, the British Paralympic Association, World Taekwondo, Zakia and Hossain are now in Tokyo to fulfil their dreams, sending out a strong message of hope to many others around the world,” Parsons said.
“Both athletes have been extremely clear that after years of training they wanted to compete on the biggest stage of all, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The fact that so many authorities have combined to make this possible is truly wonderful.”
As Afghanistan’s first female athlete to enter the Paralympic Games since Athens 2004, Khudadadi will compete in the women’s K44 -49kg weight category in taekwondo on Sept. 2.
Hossain, who originally planned to participate in the men’s 100m T47 on Aug. 28, will line up in the heats of the men’s 400m T47 event on Sept. 3.
Lawyer Alison Battisson from Human Rights for All, who was involved in evacuating athletes out of Afghanistan, told SBS that the athletes boarded their evacuation flights thanks to a family member of an Afghan Paralympic Committee member.
Afghanistan’s flag was paraded at the opening ceremony on Aug. 24 as a message of solidarity and peace.
“I strongly believe that, through the Paralympic movement and the Paralympic Games, we all can deliver the positive message that peaceful coexistence is best for humanity,” Arian Sadiqi, the Afghanistan chef de mission said in a statement.
“We should keep and cherish peace because quarrels and negative feeling only destroy humankind.”