Afghan National Olympic Committee commits to sending male and female athletes to Paris 2024

Afghan National Olympic Committee commits to sending male and female athletes to Paris 2024

Afghan sprinters Kimia Yousofi, 25, and Sha Mahmood Noorzahi, 30, exercise ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, at a stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan July 1, 2021. Picture taken July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan sprinters Kimia Yousofi, 25, and Sha Mahmood Noorzahi, 30, exercise ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, at a stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan July 1, 2021. Picture taken July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail (MOHAMMAD ISMAIL/)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed a meeting between itself and the Afghan National Olympic Committee, along with the Afghan General Directorate of Physical Education & Sports, on Wednesday. The organization was reportedly able to obtain a guarantee the country would send both male and female athletes to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

The meeting was facilitated by the Qatar Olympic Committee, and took place in Doha. The IOC confirmed the Olympic Council of Asia, which includes the National Olympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan among its membership, was also present at the meeting.

Afghan representatives reportedly reiterated their commitment to the Olympic Charter, including an understanding that women and young girls should be allowed to access sport and practice it safely. However, recent reporting out of the country suggests the opposite is happening in the West Asian nation.

Friba Rezayee, the first woman to compete for Afghanistan at the Olympics, voiced her concerns about the state of women’s sport under Taliban rule to Deutsche Welle in April. She stated, “according to their interpretation of Sharia law, women’s sports are a sin. They believe sexual signals are sent to men because a woman’s body is visible during physical activity. Women are not even allowed to exercise in a gym.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Women's 100m - Preliminary Round - OLS - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 30, 2021. Kimia Yousofi of Afghanistan is seen REUTERS/Phil Noble
Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Athletics – Women’s 100m – Preliminary Round – OLS – Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – July 30, 2021. Kimia Yousofi of Afghanistan is seen REUTERS/Phil Noble (PHIL NOBLE/)

She was also critical of the IOC’s approach to dealing with the new reality in Afghanistan, arguing, “if they legitimize it, the Taliban will win. That will set a historical precedent: Evil wins. But we want the principles of sport, education and human rights to win over the men with the guns.”

The full breadth of what was discussed in the meeting between the IOC, Afghan National Olympic Committee, and the Afghan General Directorate of Physical Education & Sports remains uncertain.

The only major detail announced publicly was the commitment of the Afghan National Olympic Committee to send both male and female athletes to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

In a short release about the meeting, the IOC stated it would “continue to support the Olympic community in the country, as well as the preparations of Afghan athletes for, and their participation in, forthcoming international sports competitions.”

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Taekwondo - Women K44 -49kg Repechage Quarterfinal - Makuhari Messe Hall B, Chiba, Japan - September 2, 2021. Zakia Khudadadi of Afghanistan makes her entrance for her bout against Viktoriia Marchuk of Ukraine REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – Taekwondo – Women K44 -49kg Repechage Quarterfinal – Makuhari Messe Hall B, Chiba, Japan – September 2, 2021. Zakia Khudadadi of Afghanistan makes her entrance for her bout against Viktoriia Marchuk of Ukraine REUTERS/Thomas Peter (THOMAS PETER/)

Rezayee described her participation at the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics as a “sports revolution.” Now, like many observers of international sport, she must work to make sure that flame of Olympic hope is not extinguished.

“The work that we are doing, and that I am also asking the international community to do, is not only to save the lives of female athletes in Afghanistan, but also to keep their hope alive. Hope is the last light bulb left burning. We must not let this light go out.”

The IOC, Afghan National Olympic Committee, and Afghan General Directorate of Physical Education & Sports have agreed to carry on dialogue. The Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games are just over two years away.