The first female member of the Paralympic refugee team said Monday that it was an honor to be at the Tokyo Games, urging women with disabilities to join the sport.
At Tuesday’s opening ceremony for the Paralympics, Alia Isa will be one of the two flag bearers for the six-member refugee team, which has been delayed by a year due to epidemics.
The 20-year-old, who was born in Greece and whose family is from Syria, will take part in the Club Throw event in Tokyo – and she hopes others will follow her lead.
“I want to tell other women with disabilities not to stay at home, try daily with sports, stay out of the world. I hope I will be the first example,” she told a news conference.
“I never thought I would come to the Paralympic Games once in my life, and that I would be the first female refugee at the Paralympic Games here in Tokyo. It’s a great honor for me.”
When she was four years old, Jesus contracted smallpox, which damaged her nervous system. She now uses a wheelchair and has some difficulty speaking.
She started para sports three years ago, and has been training club throw for the past two years.
She will fly the flag for the Muhajir team on Tuesday with swimmer Abbas Karimi, who grew up in Afghanistan.
This is the second time since Rio in 2016 that a refugee team has competed in the Paralympics.
On Tuesday, the team’s Chef de Mission Ileana Rodriguez said the six Paralympians represent “82 million people who are homeless worldwide” and want to send a message of hope.
“We are very grateful to the countries where there are refugees and we encourage countries that can help refugees,” Rodriguez said.
“We hope this is a strong message we can leave for the people of Japan.”
Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, granted refugee status to 47 people in 2020, accounting for more than one percent of all asylum applications received this year.
“Our hearts go out to all the people of Afghanistan,” Rodriguez added.
Afghans trying to flee the Taliban defeated a US-led military operation at Kabul airport, leaving tragic scenes in which at least seven people were killed.