Athletes from the Paralympic refugee team hope their performance at the Tokyo Games can send a message of hope to the Afghan people, who are facing tough times after the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist group came to power in the country. Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi is one of the six athletes on the team.
Karimi will be one of the flag-bearers of the refugee contingent at the opening ceremony, accompanied by Aaliyah Issa, the Syrian club thrower. Four other athletes are on the team: Iranian Shahrad Nasajpour from discus throw, tae kwon do fighters Parfat Hakijimana from Burundi and Syrian Ibrahim Al Hussein, from swimming, and Anas Al Khalifa, from canoeing.
“It is very sad what is happening in Afghanistan and our hearts go out to the people of Afghanistan. We are representing all the people of the world who are refugees, so we are working very hard to send a message of hope and ensure that We are doing what our team does,” Ileana Rodriguez, head of the delegation, said at a news conference.
“I’m sure these athletes will give their all to support the refugees and make them feel hopeful during these Games, and the same message goes to the people of Afghanistan,” Rodriguez said.
Alia Issa, the first woman to compete as a refugee in the Paralympics, commented on the situation. “I never thought I would be the first female Paralympic refugee. It’s a great honor to be on this team. I’m a little nervous about it,” admitted the 20-year-old Syrian, who lives in Greece.
“I want to share with women with disabilities: Don’t stay at home. Try to go out with sports every day. I hope to be the first example. I want to be an example for refugees to follow their dreams.” I want to,” Issa said.
During the press conference, the small number of refugees taken by Japan was questioned. Former Cuban swimmer Ileana Rodriguez replied, “We are very grateful to countries that accept refugees and we encourage those countries that can support them to accept them. We hope this There is a strong message that we can leave with the people of Japan as well.” , who went to the United States at a very young age for the treatment of paralysis.
Another moment of the incident was the reading of a letter sent from Bayern Munich by football player Alfonso Davies. The footballer was born in Ghana, lived as a refugee for a few years and grew up in Canada, the national team he plays for today. In the text, Davis said that what refugee Paralympic athletes will do in Tokyo will change people’s lives and inspire others who are in a similar situation.
UNHCR, the United Nations body for refugees, also celebrated the inclusion of the refugee team in the Paralympics. “His presence on the world stage at the Paralympic Games is a historic moment to represent the more than 12 million displaced people living with disabilities around the world,” Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said in an official statement.