Mohammad Abbas Karimi has been supporting UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency since May 2021.
Abbas Karimi grew up in Afghanistan, where he faced discrimination and bullying for his disability. Abbas started kickboxing as a child to protect himself as much as to keep active and channel his emotions. It was not until he jumped into a pool for the first time that he realised swimming was his true calling. At his first ever national swimming competition in Afghanistan, he became a champion.
In 2013, Abbas fled from Afghanistan. After a long and arduous journey he arrived in Turkey, where he spent four years as a refugee before being resettled to Portland, USA by UNHCR in 2016. Since then, Abbas has won eight medals, including silver in the Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships and he now lives and trains in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Abbas competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a member of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Refugee Paralympic Team, and was one of the Team's flag bearers at the Games' opening ceremony. He competed in the 50 Metre butterfly S5 event, where he qualified for the final, and finished eighth overall. He believes that partaking in the games will bring further hope and inspiration to the millions of displaced people around the world he trains to represent.
Abbas said: “I believe in myself, but nothing I do is for myself. I have made it this far and I will do my best to be a representative for all refugees and displaced around the world as a supporter of UNHCR. I have won eight medals in swimming as refugee para athlete. I believe I have the potential to make the podium at the Paralympics and I believe it is important for all refugees and our legacy that one of us refugee athletes make the podium, it can bring change for refugees and inspire and bring hope.”
On International Day for Persons with Disabilities in 2021, Abbas featured on UNHCR global social media channels, in posts about the power of sport and how much it has impacted his life.
In 2017, Abbas travelled to Geneva as part of the Global Youth Advisory Council to speak at the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges. He wishes to continue to use his sporting prowess as a platform to advocate for the positive impact sport has had on his life as a displaced person with a disability.