Saturday, July 12, 2008

Afghan runner goes missing

ESPN is reporting that Mehboba Ahdyar, a 19-year old member of the Afghan olympic track and field team, went missing from her training camp in Italy and may be seeking political asylum in Norway.
Mehboba Ahdyar, a 19-year-old runner who competes in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters, hasn't been heard from since leaving the training center in Formia last week. Her luggage and passport also were gone."The IOC accepts that athletes sometimes feel they have to make hard choices to improve their lives," International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said Thursday. "It would appear this is what has happened in this case."
Ahdyar is the only woman on Afghanistan's track and field team in which she competes in a headscarf and long pants. Nonetheless, the fact that she is a woman in a public space has sparked hostility from the Taliban groups that are regaining strength in Afghanistan.

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.

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 100-meter heats and Friba Razayee competing in judo.

Afghanistan is fighting a Taliban insurgency six years after the hardline regime's ouster, and women are still considered second-class citizens. Taliban militants often target organizations and individuals who champion women's issues.

Ahdyar and her family have been repeatedly threatened.
Ahdyar's family of eight lives in a mud-brick house in one of the poorest parts of Kabul."We are scared, really scared about the security situation in our country and of the people who have negative views about my family," Ahdyar's mother, Moha Jan, told The Associated Press in March. "These problems cannot stop us from supporting our daughter."
While it contradicts the testimony of the Olympics officials in Italy, Afghanistan's Olympics Committee in Kabul claims that Ahdyar left camp due to a leg injury which has rendered her incapable of competing in Beijing. It is our hope that whatever has happened, Ahdyar finds happiness for herself and her family, and that the rights of women continue to progress in Afghanistan despite the resurgence of Taliban forces.

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