Yousofi to represent ‘stolen dreams’ of Afghan women at Olympics

Kimia Yousofi said on Tuesday that she will be representing “the stolen dreams and aspirations” of all Afghan women as part of Afghanistan’s six-person team for the Paris Olympics, AFP reported.

Yousofi, a 100-meter sprinter and Afghanistan’s flag-bearer at the Tokyo Games, fled to neighboring Iran to escape persecution when the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. She was among five athletes and administrators, along with their families, who were granted safe passage to Australia a year later.

“It’s an honor to represent the girls of my homeland once again. Girls and women who have been deprived of basic rights, including education, which is the most important one,” the 28-year-old said via the Australian Olympic Committee. “I represent the stolen dreams and aspirations of these women. Those who don’t have the authority to make decisions as free human beings. They don’t even have the permission to enter a park.”

Yousofi expressed deep gratitude to those who supported her journey, making her participation possible.

A gender-balanced team of three men and three women will represent Afghanistan in Paris later this month, marking the first Summer Olympics since the Taliban took control of Kabul. The women will compete in athletics and cycling, while the men will participate in athletics, swimming, and judo.

The athletes were selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in consultation with Afghanistan’s largely exiled national Olympic committee. All except the judoka are based outside Afghanistan. The team will compete under the black, red, and green flag and anthem of the Western-backed former republic, which was ousted by the Taliban.

The IOC has refused to accredit any officials from the Taliban, who on Monday stated they do not recognize Yousofi or her two female colleagues.

“Only three athletes are representing Afghanistan,” said Atal Mashwani, spokesman for the Taliban government’s sports directorate, referring to the male competitors. “Currently, in Afghanistan, girls’ sports have been stopped. When girls’ sport isn’t practiced, how can they go on the national team?” he told AFP.

Yousofi’s participation in the Olympics stands as a powerful symbol of resilience and hope for Afghan women, who continue to face severe restrictions under Taliban rule.