They went through hardships to realize their dreams.. Stories of Arab refugees participating in the Tokyo Olympics


Among the 26 refugee athletes from around the world chosen by the International Olympic Committee to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, Arab refugees are participating, including a swimmer who was forced to push a wooden boat that sank while fleeing her country, and others who were threatened by difficult war conditions to leave their homes.

International Olympic Committee She said The 26 participants will compete in 12 sports in a championship in the competition scheduled for the month of July, and she announced the names of the team that will participate after years of training as part of a grant she gave them, and said that their participation sends “a strong message of solidarity and hope, and raises more awareness about the plight of more of the 80 million displaced people around the world.

“They are a remarkable group of people who inspire the world… Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of living abroad truly makes them extraordinary,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who is also vice-president of the Olympic Refugee Foundation.

“These athletes embody the hopes and aspirations of more than 80 million people around the world who have been displaced by war and persecution… They serve as a reminder that everyone deserves a chance to succeed in life,” he added.

This will be the second time that a refugee team will participate in the Olympic Games, after the first participation in Rio de Janeiro, in 2016, where 10 refugee athletes from four countries competed, and their participation “is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees around the world in A time when the number of people forcibly displaced by violence and persecution reached its highest level since World War II,” according to the United Nations Refugee Agency website.

. was chosen Team Tokyo is among the refugee athletes supported by the International Olympic Committee through the Olympic Scholarship Program for Refugee Athletes.

Among the participants in the Syrian cycling competition, born in Aleppo, is Ahmed Badreddine (30 years old), who resides in Switzerland, who finished ninth in the Asian Champions competition in 2019. Ahmed won as a junior many Syrian championships and the Arab road race, as he was the first youth to participate in championships In the name of Syria, but with the outbreak of war, his life became more difficult, and in 2014, he decided that he had no choice but to flee, and indeed he arrived in Switzerland after a long journey. Currently, he is cycling and hopes to study sports science.

As for the Syrian boxer Ahmed Alikaj (30 years old), who lives in Hamburg, Germany as a “refugee” and competes in the weight of 73 kilograms, he was included in the refugee team in the Budapest Grand Prix of 2019 and participated in the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, as well as in the “Paris Grand” championship Salam” and “Düsseldorf Grand Slam”.

In the wrestling competition, the Iraqi refugee residing in Austria, Aker Al-Obaidi (22 years old), who had won third place in the 2019 European Junior Championships (ESP), will participate, after arriving in Austria fleeing Mosul, where he grew up. Al-Obaidi left his country after ISIS began recruiting young people in the city, and after he arrived in Austria, in 2016, he continued training and competed with his colleagues in an international competition in Riga, in which he won the gold medal, and currently he trains seven times a week in a local wrestling club. The children are trained.

Al-Obaidi said in an interview with about his departure from Mosul: “I didn’t want to leave, but I had to… It was a very scary experience. I didn’t know where I was going or where I would end up.” . When he moved to Austria, he faced difficulties in adapting to the new life, but he was able to overcome it, after “his talent opened the way for him” and he was able to establish many friendships in the world of wrestling.

After his outstanding performance in the world of wrestling, he set the dream of Tokyo in mind, and painted the five Olympic rings on one of the walls of his house, to remind him of this goal, and indeed he received a grant for athletes from the International Olympic Committee, and benefited from training and funding in his quest to compete until he was already selected.

The Syrian refugee from Aleppo, Alaa Masso, 21, who lives in Hanover, Germany, will participate in the swimming competition. Alaa left Syria in 2015 after his training facilities were damaged and he felt extreme pressure as a result of the conflict around him. There, he returned to swimming training and currently wants to return to study and make up for the years of his journey out of Syria.

Alaa said in an interview that when he was in Syria, swimming was his haven to escape the conflict around him: “I was able to separate myself from a lot of negativity and gain confidence in my personal life while training.”

As for Mona Duhok, the daughter of Damascus, born in 1995 and currently residing in the Netherlands, she will participate in the judo competition. Mona fled Syria in 2018, to join her mother in the Netherlands. She started judo in Damascus when she was six years old with her sister and has never stopped practicing it. She now competes in the 63kg category in the Netherlands, and has previously been on the refugee team at the 2019 Budapest Grand Prix, among other championships.

And her compatriot, Yousra Mardini, 23, is participating in swimming in Tokyo after she was part of the 2016 Summer Olympics team. Yousra fled her country in 2015 to Germany, through Beirut and then Turkey, to the island of Lesbos in Greece, and on the last trip, the boat that was on it broke down. He would bring them to the island, so the sisters and a third woman had to swim to push the boat for three hours and bring it to shore.

“All the way through, you can only hear all our prayers in one voice,” Mardini said in a previous interview. It continued on its journey to its final destination, Germany, on foot and in buses. “Sports was our way out” of Syria, says Mardini. “It gave us hope to build our new life.”

As for the Syrian boxer Wissam Salamana, 34, who represented his country in the 2012 Olympic Games, he made the difficult decision to flee his country to Germany in order to preserve the safety of his family and to be able to continue his sports career. In 2015, he decided to escape, and there he continued training and won a bronze medal in the World Cup in Cologne 2021. The report says Salamana, who “has a positive outlook and deep mental strength,” said in a motivational speech to athletes: “Keep on going.” Training. Don’t give up. The Olympic dream is coming.”

In the karate competition, the Damascene Wael Shweib, 36, who used to practice his sport alongside his work in a textile factory in Syria, before he left in 2015, due to religious conflicts in his city and his refusal to join the ranks of the regime forces and fight against his countrymen . He arrived in Turkey on a rubber dinghy and then went to Greece, riding a bicycle that took him to the Serbian border, until he finally reached his final destination, Germany.

Damascene Sanda Aldas, 31, who will participate in the judo competition, she and her family lost their home and decided to leave Syria for the Netherlands, then her husband followed her after that, and she gave birth to two children there. It hasn’t always been easy for her to strike a balance between motherhood and training, but she feels “happy and lucky to be able to live in a safe environment with her family and is able to do that training”. Starting a new life was also not easy, but “exercise and getting support helped her make a new start and rebuild her self-confidence.”

ووضع Aram Mahmoud (24 years), who is participating in the badminton competition, has a motto for himself: “I can. I believe in myself”:

In 2014, Aram was Syria’s two-time badminton singles champion, but the following year, as the civil war dragged on, unable to attend school or training, he left home to join his brother in the Netherlands. Now he is pursuing his sporting goals and has recently reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 tournament in Portugal, and considers himself lucky to have found his current club that helped him stand out and settle down.


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