Boxer, Coach From Afghanistan Seek Asylum in Canada
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The athlete who carried Afghanistan’s flag in the Olympics’ opening ceremony has fled to Canada and asked for political asylum.
The defection of light middleweight boxer Jawid Aman Mukhamad was the second of an Olympic athlete during the games. On Friday, Iraqi flag-bearer and weightlifter Raed Ahmed said he was granted political asylum in the United States.
Mukhamad, 24, left Atlanta with his coach of eight years, Ahmad Samim, last week and arrived Friday in Buffalo at a facility that helps refugees wishing to enter Canada to seek political asylum.
Mukhamad told the Buffalo News that just hours after the opening ceremony Afghan officials barred him from competing because they believed he and his coach were communists.
Mukhamad and Samim said their frequent trips to Russia for training prompted the allegation. They said they are not communists.
``I wanted to have the competition,″ Mukhamad told the newspaper through an interpreter. ``I was preparing for a long time. I was so disappointed, so upset.″
Sydneymarie Putnam, a Buffalo refugee service worker, said the pair was granted refugee status in Canada Saturday night and they left the United States. A Canadian government spokesman would not confirm that Sunday, saying the government does not comment on refugee claims.
Homayen Paravata, the chief of the Afghan delegation at the athletes’ village in Atlanta, said Sunday he couldn’t believe the news. He said he thought Mukhamad was in Washington with relatives and had called a few days ago. His return flight to Afghanistan had been confirmed.
Paravata also expressed disbelief about the statements that Mukhamad said were made about him.
``I don’t know about that. That he was a communist or not _ I can’t believe,″ he said.
Ahmed, the other defector during the games, said he was opposed to the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and feared for his life.
Mukhamad said his primary reason for wanting to live in Canada is to have a better chance of becoming a world-class boxer.
``I want a good life, peace and many competitions in the future,″ he said.
Samim left a wife and two daughters in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. He hopes to bring them to Canada.