The Afghan flag was displayed during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics held on Tuesday night despite every single athlete from Afghanistan pulling out amid the chaos and terror happening in their home country.
While no athletes rallied behind the flag, Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, said the IPC would display the flag as a "show of solidarity." The message conveys the agency's support of Afghanistan amid the Taliban group's recent takeover.
Tokyo Paralympics Fly Afghan Flag
The flag was carried out at the opening ceremony after the IPC said that Afghanistan's National Paralympic Committee would not participate in the games. The situation was a result of its athletes not being able to get flights to Tokyo to attend the games.
Parsons said on Monday that a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative would act as the flag bearer for the nation's symbol. "I think it's just important to highlight because it is a message basically of solidarity and peace that we send to the world. We would like to have them here, unfortunately, it's not possible, but they will be here, of course, in spirit," he said, CBS News reported.
Only two athletes were scheduled to represent Afghanistan at the Tokyo Paralympics, Zakia Khudadadi, who practices Taekwondo, and Hossain Rasouli, a track athlete. But the two individuals confirmed they would not be able to compete at the games due to being stuck in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country on Aug. 15, 2021.
Khudadadi is a 23-year-old athlete who was set to become Afghanistan's first female Paralympian and the first female athlete from the region to compete at the Games since 2004. Previously, she said she was "thrilled" to be part of the games as the first Afghan woman since Athens 2004.
On the other hand, 24-year-old Rasouli, who was the victim of a mine blast that severed his left arm, was supposed to make his Paralympic debut at the games. He called the opportunity to play a "dream," Yahoo News reported.
Afghanistan's Situation After Taliban Takeover
In a Twitter post, Arian Sadiqi, the Afghan Chef de Mission, expressed his grief that Afghan athletes were not able to safely pass to Tokyo. However, he said he was grateful to have been able to see the Afghan flag fly at the games.
"Unfortunately, our athletes have impossible obstacles ahead of their I'mPOSSIBLE dreams," the official said in his post.
Many Afghan residents have tried to flee the country after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, the region's capital city. Some have died trying to get on U.S. planes, with human remains being discovered on the wheels of the aircraft.
The IPC said it monitored the conditions and situation in Afghanistan and determined that there was no safe way for the athletes to come to Tokyo. While they were devastated by the news, athletes kept asking for help for their country.
Khudadadi was shown in a video recording saying, "My intention is to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, please hold my hand and help me," USA Today reported.