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Afghan Female Tae Kwon Do Athletes Settle In Australia After Escape

Afghan women take part in a tae kwon do training session at a gym in Herat province. (file photo)

Seven female tae kwon do athletes are resettling in Australia after fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan last month.

Australian Taekwondo said on September 22 that the seven women are completing quarantine this week following what it described as a high-risk evacuation via Pakistan after the Taliban seized power in mid-August.

The group is expected to settle in the city of Melbourne in the southeastern part of mainland Australia, where they plan to study, work, and continue to compete in tae kwon do.

The athletes are in Australia on humanitarian visas.

Australian Taekwondo said that it is working to evacuate an eighth female tae kwon do athlete who remains in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Players from Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team are among dozens of athletes reportedly given visas to live in Australia as tens of thousands of Afghans, fearing reprisal attacks and repression, fled the country last month after the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul.

When the Taliban imposed its brutal rule on Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, girls were not allowed to attend school and women were banned from work, education, and sports.

The hard-line Islamist group has suggested it is now more moderate, but the Taliban-led, all-male government has rolled back the rights of girls and women in recent days.

Australian Taekwondo’s chief executive Heather Garriock said former Australia national soccer captain and humanitarian advocate Craig Foster worked with the Australian government, Australian Taekwondo, and Oceania Taekwondo on the evacuation of the seven female tae kwon do athletes.

“The lives of these women were in danger,” Garriock said, adding that they “will be welcomed with open arms” in Australia.

One of the athletes, Fatima Ahmadi, said she was grateful for the help of everyone who helped her and her teammates escape.

"I feel so good about arriving in Australia," said Ahmadi. "We are safe here without any danger."

Afghanistan's new rulers have indicated that women and girls will face restrictions in playing sports, with a senior Taliban official saying earlier this month it was "not necessary" for women to play sports.

A sports official in the Taliban-led administration later said top-level leaders of the group were still deciding.

According to human rights groups, many women in Afghanistan are now dressed in burqas covering their whole bodies and leave their homes only with a male guardian. Most have stopped other activities to avoid violence and reprisals.

With reporting by AP and ABC NEWS
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