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Afghan Paralympian Khudadadi Makes Debut In Tokyo After Secret Kabul Evacuation


Afghan taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi.

Afghan taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi has competed at the Tokyo Paralympic Games after she was secretly evacuated from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old and her compatriot Hossain Rasouli first flew to Paris after a secret international effort to help them get out of Taliban-controlled Kabul, before continuing to Tokyo on August 28.

On September 2, Khudadadi entered the competition arena in Chiba, near the Japanese capital, wearing a white hijab for the opening match of the debut of the Korean combat sport at the Paralympics -- becoming the first Afghan woman to compete for Afghanistan at the Paralympic Games since 2004.

Khudadadi lost her two matches against Uzbekistan's Ziyodakhon Isakova and Viktoria Marchuk of Ukraine in the under-49 kilogram category.

"I worry about the situation in Afghanistan, but I am very glad that she managed to come and compete with me," Marchuk said afterward.

Track athlete Rasouli, who arrived in Tokyo too late to compete in his favored 100-meter event, finished last in the long jump final on August 31.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has said the two athletes would not be available for interviews during the Paralympics.

It remains unclear where the pair will go after the Paralympics ends on September 5.

When asked about their status on September 2, IPC spokesman Craig Spence replied: “We've left them be for the last few days to focus on competition.”

“We'll now start to have conversations about what happens in terms of the closing ceremony and where they go next.”

Alison Battisson of Human Rights for All, who was involved in their evacuation, told Reuters that Australia had granted them humanitarian visas.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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