First Refugee Athletes Compete Under ‘Independent’ Status at IWAS World Games 2017


IWAS supported the attendance of refugee athletes Hadi Hassanzada and Najib Alhaj Ali to compete in Para Taekwondo and Athletics at the IWAS World Games 2017



For the first time, the IWAS World Games welcomed refugee athletes competing under neutral ‘independent athlete’ status, this year.

Hadi Hassanzada, a refugee from Afghanistan, now settled in Austria, competed in the Para Taekwondo K42 -61kg category in his first IWAS World Games appearance. Having lost his arm in the conflict in Afghanistan, Hadi sought refuge first in Turkey before making a base in Austria where he was first introduced to Para Taekwondo.


Supported by IWAS and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, Hassanzada said of the experience, ‘The IWAS World Games 2017 has given me an opportunity to meet new people and compete against the best in the sport. The competition was a great experience and has pushed to work harder for the next time. I would like to thank all those who made it possible for me to come to this competition.’

Hadi is excited for the challenge ahead with his sights set on Tokyo 2020 qualification, ‘I still have a long way to go but look forward to the journey ahead’.

As part of the Agitos Foundation’s Grant Support Programme managed by the Hellenic Paralympic Committee, IWAS also supported the international sporting debut of Najib Alhaj Ali alongside the 300 IWAS Games athletes in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. 

At twelve-years-old a bomb attack on his home in the city of Homs, Syria left Najib paralysed from the waist down. In search of safety, the family braved a Mediterranean Sea crossing on rubber dinghy from Turkey to Greece where they were finally granted asylum last year.

Now fourteen, Najib competed in Portugal in U18s 100m and 200m also taking the opportunity for international World Para Athletics classification.


IWAS was delighted to support these athlete’s participation in the IWAS World Games. We look forward to following their sporting journeys and welcoming them to another IWAS Games in the future.