The Executive Director of the Australian Taekwondo Federation confirmed that seven Afghan athletes were evacuated from Afghanistan and given humanitarian asylum in Melbourne. Details of the operation to remove the women from the country were not disclosed, and the process was reportedly coordinated by humanitarian lawyer Craig Foster. They are in quarantine.
– We are really pleased that the women are safe and are incredibly grateful for the assistance of the Government of Australia and Oceania Taekwondo in getting them out of Afghanistan. The lives of these women were in danger. As a sport we need to do something to help. These women will be welcomed with open arms – said Heather Garrick, who played in two Olympics, defending the Australian national football team.
A statement attributed to one of the athletes, Fatima Ahmadi, was reproduced by news agencies. In this Taekwondista displays gratitude.
– I am feeling very happy to be in Australia. We are safe here, without any danger. The Australian Taekwondo Federation helped us a lot and I am very grateful. We look forward to being able to do something useful to help repay Australia.
Australia has been featured in world news as a top destination for athletes who fled Afghanistan and obtained humanitarian visas. Afghan women have been banned from playing sports since the Taliban radical group returned to power.
The restrictions go a long way. Women are treated as second class citizens and are prevented from going to educational institutions and working, they are forced to stay at home.