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From Kabul to Paris, the journey of Zakia Khudadadi, para-taekwondo champion

She thanks France for responding to her call for help. Sometimes, in the middle of a sentence, she stops and her eyes mist up. Then she resumes her story in a soft, calm voice. She’s only 23, looks like a teenager, but the hardships she’s been through have made her grow, and she doesn’t mince words when it comes to the Taliban regime , these Islamist fundamentalists who regained power in Afghanistan seven months ago.

On August 14, 2021, she was in Kabul, in her bubble, with the intention of becoming, ten days later, the first Afghan to represent her country at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. When the capital fell on August 15, everything collapsed. “The Taliban are there, you have to hide”, tell him his friends. Abandoned by her federation, she hides in the house of a relative, but does not resign herself.

Like throwing a bottle into the sea, she sends a video to the Reuters news agency: “I am an Afghan Paralympic athlete. I am currently cloistered in this apartment, I do not have the possibility of going out, and the relatives who host me here do not have enough food to feed their own children, so I ask you to help me, to give a hand. »

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Quickly, France contacted her and organized her exfiltration. Zakia weaves his way between Taliban roadblocks, reaches Kabul airport where thousands of panicked families are crammed together. “I was very scared because there was a rumor about suicide attacks at the airportshe says. When the French soldiers found me on the Tarmac, I understood that I was going to live. If I’m alive, it’s thanks to France. »

Having fled without luggage, she arrives in France with only her passport in her pocket. The Ministry of Sports hosted him at Insep (National Institute of Sport and Physical Education), in Paris. “When she arrived, she was very weak and worried about her family, but we quickly adopted her,” says Oury Sztantman, head of the taekwondo center at Insep.

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The ministry then arranged for her trip to Tokyo, where she was able to compete in the under 49kg category. She did not shine there, beaten (17-12) during her first fight. But there are failures which look like victories. His entry into the taekwondo room to the sound of the tube Thunderstruck, of the Australian group AC/DC, will go down in the history of Olympism as the response of a free Afghan woman to the oppression of the Taliban.

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