Australia issues visa to Afghan flag bearer at Tokyo 2020 Olympics to escape Taliban regime

Sprinter who carried the flag of Afghanistan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gets asylum in Australia as she flees ruthless Taliban regime

  • Afghanistan flag at Tokyo 2020 Olympics safely moved to Australia
  • Kimia Yousofi among 31 Afghans who have been granted visas to escape the Taliban regime
  • Initiative to support prominent female sports activists from terrorist groups

Afghanistan’s flag bearer at the Tokyo 2020 Games and other prominent women’s sports activists have been safely relocated to Australia after a year-long project by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

Two-time Olympic sprinter and flag bearer Kimia Yousofi, her mother and one of her three brothers were among five Afghan families with Olympic ties to land in Australia this week.

A total of 31 family members arrived in Australia, the first in early June and the most recent last week.

The initiative comes after Kabul’s fall to the Taliban last year, which put them at significant risk given their support for women’s participation in sports and education.

Afghanistan's flag bearer at the Tokyo 2020 Games and other prominent women's sports activists have been safely relocated to Australia as an initiative to escape the Taliban regime

Afghanistan’s flag bearer at the Tokyo 2020 Games and other prominent women’s sports activists have been safely relocated to Australia as an initiative to escape the Taliban regime

Yousofi, who had already fled Afghanistan with her parents to Iran in 1996, hopes her other brothers will get visas to join her as she pushes for a third Games appearance in Paris 2024.

There, she could either represent Afghanistan, if the Taliban government supports the drafting of a team of men and women, or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refugee team.

“It’s been a journey for me, but I’m very happy to be here,” she said.

“I’m actually starting a new life here. I’m going to train really hard and it would be exciting to go to Paris – I’m definitely going to join.

“Thank you to the Government of Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee and everyone for helping me get my family here.”

“Thank you to the Government of Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee and everyone who helped get my family here,” Yousofi said.

Afghan taekwondo representative Ahmad Abasy has coached and promoted his sport with a focus on creating opportunities for young women.

“Sport is the natural right of every human being, regardless of their gender,” he said on arrival in Australia.

“Unfortunately, sport in Afghanistan now has a gender perspective and girls are denied the right to sport. This is a great loss to the sport of Afghanistan and the world.

“Afghan girls are very talented in sports and have made significant achievements in the sports sector that should not be ignored.

‘I don’t think it’s enough for girls to just exercise in parks and sports clubs.

“Afghan girls should actively participate in international competitions, and we will witness one of the Afghan girls win a world Olympic medal. I will fight for their rights.’

The AOC worked with the Department of the Interior to arrange visas, flights and transfers, while also providing financial support and other resources pending approval and long-term accommodation and employment.

“For the families involved, the stress and uncertainty during this period has been enormous,” said AOC chief Matt Carroll.

“These brave people have endured considerable hardship and we are so pleased that our efforts have been successful.

“It’s a proud moment for the Olympic movement in Australia to have them here, safe and well settled.”

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