‘Very happy to be here’: Olympians fleeing Afghanistan find new homes in Australia

Afghanistan’s flag bearer at the Tokyo 2020 Games and other prominent women’s sports activists have been safely relocated to Australia following a year-long Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) project.
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 have 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 put them at risk, given their support for women’s participation in sport and education.
Yousofi, who previously fled Afghanistan for Iran with her parents in 1996, is hoping her other brothers will get visas to join her as she pushes for a third Games appearance at Paris 2024.
There, she could represent either Afghanistan, if the Taliban government supports sending 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.

Flag bearers Kimia Yousofi (left) and Farzad Mansouri of the Afghan team lead their team during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Source: Getty / Matthias Hangst

“I’m basically starting a new life here. I’m going to train very hard and it would be exciting to go to Paris – I’m definitely going to compete.

“Thank you to the Australian Government and the Australian Olympic Committee and everyone for helping to bring my family here.”
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 gender,” he said upon arriving in Australia.
“Unfortunately now in Afghanistan sport has a gender perspective and girls are denied the right to sport. This is a great loss for sport in Afghanistan and the world.
“Afghan girls have good talent in sports and have made significant achievements in the sports sector that should not be ignored.
“I believe it is not enough for girls to play sports only in parks and sports clubs.
“Afghan girls should actively participate in international competitions, and we will see one of the Afghan girls win a world Olympic medal. I will fight for their rights.”
AOC worked with the Home Office to secure visas, flights and transfers while providing financial support and other resources pending approval, accommodation and long-term employment.
“For the families involved, the stress and uncertainty during this time has been enormous,” said AOC boss Matt Carroll.
“These brave individuals have endured significant hardship and we are delighted that our efforts have been successful.

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

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