Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Female Afghan Olympian

I recently came across this story regarding the only female athlete on the Afghan Olympic Team - who has gone missing.

From The Star Online:
"The only female athlete on Afghanistan’s team for the Beijing Olympics has gone missing from a training camp in Italy and apparently is seeking political asylum in Norway. Mehboba Ahdyar, a 19-year-old runner who competes in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres, hasn’t been heard from since leaving the training centre in Formia last week. The IOC has had no word from Ahdyar and is in contact with Afghanistan’s national Olympic committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Afghanistan was banned from the 2000 Sydney Olympics because the Taliban regime in power at the time barred women from taking part in the games. The 2004 Athens Games marked the first time Afghan women competed in the Olympics, with Robina Muqimyar running in the 100m heats and Friba Razayee competing in judo."

From myTelus:
"In Kabul, the deputy chairman of the Afghan Olympic body, Sayed Mahmoud Zia Dashti, said Ahdyar had a leg injury and was receiving treatment in Italy.

"I can confirm that she has injured her leg and that she will not participate in the Beijing Olympics and that her family in Italy is taking care of her," he said.

There had been fears that Ahdyar's disappearance could be linked to death threats from Muslim extremists in Afghanistan opposed to women running in the Olympics."

From Time:
"Mehbooba Andyar's choice to compete in a head scarf and full-length, body-covering running suit could not spare her from Taliban taunts and threats. The Afghan middle-distance runner nonetheless trekked on and was on the verge of realizing her Olympic dream. But now Andyar — slated to be the only female Afghan athlete at the Beijing Games — has gone missing from her training site just weeks before the opening ceremonies.

Andyar has not contacted any Afghan or international track-and-field authorities since disappearing Friday from a training facility in Formia, Italy, 106 miles (170 km) south of Rome, where she and other international athletes were based in June. Italian police are investigating the disappearance, though there are no signs of foul play."

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
"The IOC has had no word from Ahdyar and is in contact with Afghanistan's national Olympic committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations.

"The IOC accepts that athletes sometimes feel they have to make hard choices to improve their lives," International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said today. "It would appear this is what has happened in this case." "

This report also featured in:
ESPN ~~~ The Independent ~~~ Times Online ~~~ Gulf News

The last word is with The Independent who reported that:
"Ms Ahadgar herself brought the uncertainty to an end when she phoned her family in a poor quarter of Kabul to tell them that she was on her way to claim political asylum in Norway.

But there was always a lively possibility that she would seize the opportunity presented by her Schengen visa to escape from the grinding poverty of Afghanistan for good. To try to dissuade Ms Ahadgar from vanishing, the head of the Afghan Olympic Federation reportedly threatened to throw her family in jail if she did not return to Afghanistan. Now she has called his bluff."

Let us forget for one moment the politics behind the story, and hope that wherever she is, this young lady is alive and well.

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