Afghan flag displayed during Paralympics opening ceremony

The flag of Afghanistan was displayed during the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday night. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said the IPC would include the flag in a “show of solidarity” after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. 

The flag was carried during the Paralympics opening ceremony after the IPC said Afghanistan’s National Paralympic Committee wouldn’t participate in the Games because its athletes couldn’t get flights to Tokyo. 

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The flag of Afghanistan is carried out at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 24, 2021. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

On Monday, Parsons said a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative would be the flag bearer for the nation in absence of the athletes. 

“I think it’s just important to highlight because it is a message basically of solidarity and peace that we send to the world,” he said. “We would like to have them here, unfortunately it’s not possible, but they will be here, of course, in spirit.”

Afghan athletes Zakia Khudadadi, who was set to be Afghanistan’s first Paralympian, and Hossain Rasouli could not travel to Tokyo as the Taliban swiftly took power. According to Australian television network ABC, Khudadadi was able to leave the country and fly safely to Australia. 

The Afghan flag itself is a symbol of the ongoing struggle between Afghans and the Taliban. The Taliban’s white and black colored flags have been seen raised across the country while many in Afghanistan and social media have used their tricolored flag as a sign of defiance. 

Tuesday also marks one week before the August 31 deadline for the U.S. military to complete its evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul. While the U.S. sought to extend the deadline, a Taliban spokesperson told CBS News that extending operations beyond August 31 would be a “violation” of the U.S. commitment to withdraw.