Wednesday, December 8

the story of the athlete in a wheelchair who managed to escape the Taliban horror


Madrid

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28-year-old Nilofar Bayat’s odyssey out of Afghanistan has ended with a happy ending. Nilofar is the captain of the Afghan wheelchair basketball team. At the age of two, a Taliban missile damaged his spinal cord and killed one of his brothers. But the resilience of this young Afghan woman and the willpower to overcome any adversity raised him to the captaincy of his country’s basketball team.

In addition to being the captain of the team, the Paralympian is a law student and, until the day before the victory of the Taliban, was a collaborator of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan. Together with his basketball team, he was trying to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics, although they did not succeed in the end.

The return of the Taliban to the Central Asian country put Nilofar in the crosshairs of the insurgents. For three reasons: woman, student and elite athlete. Therefore, the player desperately asked to leave the country before it was too late.

Social networks played a fundamental role in making his story known. It was the Spanish journalist, Antonio Pampliega, that a few years ago he was kidnapped by Daesh, who through his Twitter recounted Nilofar’s desperation to leave the country; «My friend Nilofar writes me desperately from Kabul. The Taliban are going to enter Kabul. We are very afraid. My life is ending, Antonio. I can’t stay here. Nilo works at @ICRC, is the captain of the national wheelchair basketball team and is studying law, “said Pampliega.

«He went to work this morning, like every day, and they have sent everyone home. You are trying to seek a visa at the Iranian and Indian embassies to leave the country. But, as always, you need money that you don’t have. «I am looking for a sponsor who can finance the trip to flee Afghanistan and start somewhere else … », wrote the Spanish journalist.

In the ears of the Basketball Federation

These messengers arrived at the Spanish Basketball Federation and the Higher Sports Center, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they set out to evacuate them. “If you want, we can open our house to you, we offer you a place to make yourself comfortable. A club like ours only makes sense from the values, “said Txema Alonso, captain of the Basque team, who, after learning the story, contacted Pampliega to send him the proposal.

Let’s do it. Nilofar and her husband Ramish, who is also traveling with her, sent all the data to Spain and received “They just wrote to me from the Spanish Basketball Federation to try to help Nilofar get out of Kabul. Hopefully you can get on that A400 that the government of Spain is going to send, “wrote Pampliega on his Twitter.

The Bidaideak Bilbao BSR club, a wheelchair basketball team, announced its “full readiness” for the incorporation of Bayat to the staff of his team.

The president of the Basque club, who is the current league champion, sent his request to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation and the Spanish Basketball Federation so that Bayat “can reside in Bilbao” and play for Bidaideak next season .

Rumba to Spain

Once they sent all the data to Spain and received the relevant documentation to be able to travel, and, after entering the Kabul dominated by the Taliban, they arrived at the airport on Wednesday, surrounded by Taliban forces, where they had problems delivering their documentation. Once they succeeded, and passed passport control, they did not find anyone from the Spanish delegation who could help them.

Germany also offered them space in one of their planes to later manage their transfer to Spain together with the federation. Although she had to wait a few more hours, finally the staff of the Spanish embassy in Kabul located Nilofar and her husband and managed to get them on the flight organized this Friday for their transfer first to Dubai and, later, to Spain.

The second plane chartered by Spain landed shortly after 11 a.m. in Dubai with the 110 Afghans evacuated and will arrive in the next few hours at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base (Madrid), as reported by the Ministry of Defense on its Twitter.

The plane, an A400M, took off shortly after 8 a.m. from Kabul with 110 Afghans on board, including three entire families and numerous children. Once in Torrejón, they will be welcomed in the facilities expressly prepared for this, where they will also be tested for COVID-19 and their identification will be carried out.

This Thursday morning, the first plane with returnees arrived in Torrejón, in that case 53 people, including five Spaniards, the last to be in Afghanistan. The rest of the evacuees are Afghans who worked for Spain in recent years or for the European Union.

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