Yousofi Named in Gender-equal Afghanistan Team

Kimia Yousofi will represent "the stolen dreams and aspirations" of Afghanistan's women after being named in the nation's six-person team for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The 100m sprinter was Afghanistan's flag-bearer at the Tokyo Games three years ago, but fled her home country to neighbouring Iran to escape persecution when the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

The 28-year-old was one of five athletes and administrators, plus families, with ties to the Olympic movement who received safe passage into Australia a year later.

"It's an honour to represent the girls of my homeland once again - girls and women who have been deprived of basic rights, including education, which is the most important one," she said.

"I represent the stolen dreams and aspirations of these women. Those who don't have the authority to make decisions as free human beings."

Yousofi will make her third appearance at the Olympics and it will be the first time Afghanistan has three female athletes at the Games.

"I'm deeply grateful to all those who have stood by me on this journey and made this possible," she added.

The International Olympic Committee said in June, external that Afghanistan would field a gender-equal team of three men and three women "because of the demonstration that it gives to the world, at home in Afghanistan and also to the rest of the world".

The IOC added that no Taliban official would be allowed and they recognise that both the head of Afghanistan's national Olympic committee and its secretary general are currently in exile.

Since gaining power in 2021, the Taliban - who say they respect women's rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and local customs - have closed girls' high schools, placed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian and restricted access to parks and gyms.

The Taliban told AFP on Monday that they do not recognise Yousofi nor her female team-mates.

"Only three athletes are representing Afghanistan," said Atal Mashwani, the spokesman of the Taliban government's sports directorate.

"Currently, in Afghanistan girls' sports have been stopped. When girls' sport isn't practised, how can they go on the national team?"

The female athletes will compete in athletics and cycling while their male counterparts will feature in athletics, swimming and judo, with Yusofi's Australian coach John Quinn acting as the team's head coach.

All of them, except the judoka, are based outside Afghanistan with the team competing under the black, red and green flag and anthem of the Western-backed former republic, which was ousted by the Taliban.