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International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons said Thursday his organization has no means to safely bring athletes from Afghanistan to Tokyo to compete after the Taliban seized control of the country.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Parsons said the IPC has been in contact with Afghanistan’s national Paralympic committee and the chef de mission, who has called for support from organizers of the Games, which start next week.

Afgan athlete Zakia Khudadadi pleads for help in reaching Tokyo for the Paralympics in a video message.  | REUTERS / VIA KYODO
Afgan athlete Zakia Khudadadi pleads for help in reaching Tokyo for the Paralympics in a video message. | REUTERS / VIA KYODO

“We are assessing the situation and so far we believe that at the moment, we don’t have a way to bring the Afghani athletes to Tokyo in a safe way for them, in a way that will preserve their safety,” Parsons said.

“We believe it is now time to focus on them as human beings and we want to guarantee that they are safe,” he said. “It will put them at a higher risk if we try to bring them to compete in Tokyo.”

Afghanistan’s chef de mission, Arian Sadiqi, who is based in Britain, said in an interview with Kyodo News that the athletes want to compete in Tokyo, stressing, “The situation is getting worse by the hour and time is of the essence. We have to find a way to get our athletes out.”

Two athletes from Afghanistan, female para-taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and male track athlete Hossain Rasouli, were expected to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics.

“This will be recorded in the history that the world just watched the news but didn’t help the Paralympic athletes from Afghanistan,” Sadiqi said, adding he is “very disappointed and devastated” that nothing has been done by the international community to support them.

Khudadadi, who was poised to become Afghanistan’s first female Paralympian, released a video earlier this week pleading for help in reaching the Tokyo Games from Kabul after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital.

Khudadadi said she is now “imprisoned inside the house,” with relatives in Kabul, where the airport has been a scene of utter chaos as Afghans seek to flee the country.

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