Afghanistan Sends First Athletes to World Games
By Kamna Prem, 13, and Mira Chandra, 12
Amin Amin, 11, won two gold medals early in the Special Olympic World Games in Dublin, Ireland. Amin is an orphan in Afghanistan. He is competing in the 50m and 25m relays. (Photo by Suzanne Freeman)

June 24—Meeting the young athletes of Afghanistan today was a great opportunity and experience for us. Five young athletes from Afghanistan came to participate in the Special Olympics World Games for the first time ever. They have had only a month to train, but have managed to win three gold medals so far.

All the athletes were very young: from the ages of 10 to 13. All but one was raised in an orphanage.

The one who caught our attention was a young boy whose name is Amin Amin. (Children in orphanages do not have family names, so they use their first name as their last name.) Amin is a confident 10-year-old boy who won gold medals in the 50m and 25m relays.

In Afghanistan, children with mental disabilities do not have much freedom. When Amin came here for the first time, he said he was overwhelmed. Everything for him was so different. On the first day, whenever Amin saw things he had never seen before, he would grab hold of them and put them in his bag. He thought that he would never see things like this again. Now he has become accustomed to seeing things all over the place! For him it is just like a whole new world.

Nasrullah Ibrahimzay (center) with Global Youth Summit member Kamna Prem (left); young athlete Nagila Agha (front center); and Global Youth Summit chaperone Shallili Dave. The Afghanistan team was waiting outside the Healthy Athlete Center for their first visit ever to a doctor. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

"They are really blossoming, because they are experiencing what freedom of the mind really is," said their coach Nasrullah Ibrahimzay of Afghanistan. "It is a great exposure for these young athletes and definitely a great experience." He explained that they were learning for the first time to bath and brush their teeth daily. They were given their first pair of shoes when chosen to come to the Games.

Other athletes competing from Afghanistan are: Imamuddin Imamuddin, 12; Khalid Tahiry, 13; Nagila Agha, 10; and Sardar Sardar, 13.

Their coach, Nasrullah Ibrahimzay, was a very confident and determined man. He spoke Hindi, so it was easy for me (Kamna) to talk to him because I speak Hindi, too.

Nasrullah said he loves working with these children and has worked very hard to prepare them for the Special Olympics this year. He had a hard time obtaining their visas and passports.

Imamuddin Imamuddin, 12, and Nagila Agha, 10, play outside the Healthy Athlete Center at the Special Olympics World Games in Dublin, Ireland, on June 24. Imamuddin was injured when a bomb fragment hit him in the head during the war in Iraq recently.His scar is visible from the back of his head. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

He told me and Mira that in Afghanistan children with disabilities are not treated very well. They are mostly kept in orphanages. Even those who live at home are hidden away and do not attend school. He explained that when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan they would execute people with disabilities. Nasrullah believes that very soon that the people of Afghanistan will overcome this. He is working to spread awareness. His goal is to recruit 500 athletes into the Special Olympics program throughout Afghanistan within the next year.

"Afghanistan is changing every day," Nasrullah told us. "We will become a developed country very quickly. That day isn't very far."