'We lost them' - Afghan Special Olympics officials fret for disabled under Taliban
Newsfrom JapanTokyo 2020
By Eman Kamel and Hamad Mohammed
DOHA (Reuters) - Afghan Special Olympics officials worry those with intellectual disabilities will suffer under Taliban rule, with conditions even worse for disabled women than for men with disabilities.
Afghanistan's National Sports Director for the Special Olympics Mohammad Jawed Hashmi and his wife, Zala, a women's coach in the country's Special Olympics organisation, fled the country this month after the Taliban group's swift takeover.
Now in Qatar with their children, they worry about those they left behind and fear efforts to promote greater inclusion of the intellectually disabled in Afghanistan have been lost.
"They will never care about those people. They will have a tough life. They will face lots of problems, as will their families," Zala told Reuters in the Qatari capital Doha.
Reached for comment, a Taliban spokesman said: "It is the responsibility of any system to provide appropriate services to the people, especially those affected and those who need assistance more than others, so it must be taken care of."
"You know that we are still in the initial stage or step and so far things have not settled accurately. We are trying to serve our people and this is our responsibility."
The Taliban has sought to assure Afghans it will respect people's rights, including women who it barred from studying and working during its 1996-2001 when it enforced its harsh interpretion of Islamic law. Those proclamations have been met with doubt by many.
Afghanistan's Special Olympics organisation has helped train Afghan children with intellectual disabilities in sports, some becoming athletes who won medals in international competitions.
But the organisation has also helped support families, and taught intellectually disabled children how to complete some tasks others might take for granted, like walking and eating.
Mohammad Jawed said he worried who would now support these children, fearing they may be left to live their lives indoors, kept away from mainstream society.
"In these conditions we cannot give them the help, we cannot support them, we lost them," he said.
Afghanistan has more than 18 men's and women's coaches and 2,000 athletes who are still in Kabul, according to the Hashmis, who said they fled over fears for their safety.
"The day that Taliban entered to Kabul, they entered our office, they broke our office. They take our laptops, my car, everything ... They were searching for us," Mohammad Jawed said.
(Writing by Alexander Cornwell, Editing by William Maclean)
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