The Australian government has granted protection visas to eight members of Afghanistan’s national women’s taekwondo team, following the Taliban takeover of the country.
According to a report from the ABC, the athletes went into hiding last month, after the Taliban took control of Kabul’s airport. The taekwondo athletes then made their way into Pakistan and had their protection visas granted by Australia on August 30.
Australian Taekwondo and Oceania Taekwondo had approached the Australian government to see if protection visas could be granted to the athletes – the youngest of whom is 16 years old.
“The only option for the athletes was to make their way to the Pakistan border, which was a very long and dangerous journey, particularly given that the Taliban were now in control of the country and Taliban soldiers were everywhere,” Oceania Taekwondo president John Kotsifas said in a statement.
“These eight women were very brave and despite the obvious dangers they faced if they were caught, they slowly made their way towards the border with great determination and amazing resilience.”
The evacuation of the Afghan taekwondo team comes after the Australian government granted humanitarian visas to, and helped evacuate, 77 Afghan athletes, including the Afghan women’s football team, last month.
The decision to do so from the federal government came after an enormous, coordinated effort from Australian advocates, lawyers, and former sportspeople, including Craig Foster, Nikki Dryden, Alison Battisson, Zali Steggall, Kurt Fearnley and others, as reported by Tracey Holmes at the ABC.
Breaking: Afghanistan’s female athletes find refuge in Australia https://t.co/QVmZFugL6T— Tracey Holmes (@TraceyLeeHolmes) August 23, 2021
Afghan Paralympian Zakia Khudadadi was one of the athletes granted a visa, which allowed her to evacuate to Tokyo to compete in the Paralympics.
An almighty effort from #ZakiaKhudadadi – a competitive #taekwondo bout days after arriving at #Tokyo2020 #Paralympics, itself only days after fleeing #Afghanistan .— Tracey Holmes (@TraceyLeeHolmes) September 2, 2021
Part of the incredible #WomenOfAfghanistan who power on. https://t.co/sdZwA4Ot1M