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Athletes from Afghanistan carry their country’s flag in Paralympics Closing Ceremonies

Afghanistan's Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi carried their country's flag in the Closing Ceremonies of the Tokyo Paralympics. (Issei Kato/Reuters)
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A journey to the Paralympics that was punctuated by an urgent plea from one of Afghanistan’s two athletes ended Sunday in a poignant scene as Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli carried their country’s flag in the Closing Ceremonies.

The two missed the Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 24, arriving in Japan four days later after the U.S. withdrawal of troops left their homeland under the control of the Taliban. In their absence, a Tokyo 2020 volunteer carried the flag during the Parade of Nations in the Olympic Stadium as an “act of solidarity.”

Khudadadi became first female athlete from Afghanistan to compete in the Games since Athens in 2004, taking part in the taekwondo competition after a video in which she pleaded for help in getting out of leaving Kabul for the Paralympics.

“I urge you all,” she said, “from the women around the globe, institutions for the protection of women, from all government organizations, to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away so easily.

“The fact that we ourselves have lifted ourselves from this situation, that we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly. I have suffered a lot, I don’t want my struggle to be in vain and without any results. Help me.”

As a woman in a country controlled by the Taliban, Khudadadi faced peril because of their belief, often enforced through violence, that women remain in traditional roles and attire. In 2019, another Afghan female taekwondo competitor told The Post that Taliban members would “probably shoot us” if they saw her and other women training alongside men in their Kabul gym.

The director of the women’s national soccer team for Afghanistan said late last month that her players had “left their houses to go to relatives and hide” because their neighbors know they are athletes.”

Khudadadi lost her first-round match in the 44-49-kilogram weight class to Ziyodakhon Isakova of Uzbekistan 17-12 and dropped a losers’ bracket match against Viktoriia Marchuk of Ukraine 48-34.

An accident at the Marine Corps Marathon took her foot. Now she’s sprinting at the Paralympics.

Rasouli, who is primarily a sprinter, arrived in Japan too late for his event and entered the long jump in the T47 class, his only event in Tokyo. He finished last in the 13-man competition with a jump of 4.46 meters.

The athletes did not speak with the media in Tokyo and were sequestered in the Paralympic Village for privacy, health and security reasons.

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