Threats, intimidation, bans- Afghan women athletes face life without sport under the Taliban


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Sports improve our concentration and boost our self-confidence. Noura had great dedication toward sports. But her family opposed her playing sports. She had been getting beatings by her mother and she had to hear rude comments from neighbors. But she never lost her passion for sports as she loved it. In spite of this, the 20-year-old Afghan woman could not ignore the Taliban rules.

They have banned all sports for women and girls and harassed those who once played, often scaring them from even practicing in private, Noura and the other women say.

In the takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban barred girls from attending school, and all the women were thrown out of the universities. Taliban women have to cover their hair and faces. They are prohibited from going to parks and gyms. Noura was brought up in the poor Kabul district and started playing soccer with the local boys in the street. When she was 9 years old, the sports coach recognized her and with his encouragement, she joined the girls’ Youth team. She kept it a secret from everyone. At the age of 13, she was named the best girl soccer player, and her photo was broadcasted on Television. Her mother shouted at her. But she kept Playing secretly and her team won the national championship and her photo came in the news again.

She went to the award ceremony. She cried and said, “ Only I knew I was crying because of loneliness and the hard life”. Her mother set fire to her soccer uniform and shoes. Noura gave up soccer and turned to boxing. The day the Taliban entered Kabul, the coach called her mother and said Noura should go to the airport to be taken out of the country. Noura’s mother didn’t deliver the message and when she came to know about it Noura cut her wrists and was taken to the hospital.

Three months later someone identified her and asked her to leave Kabul as sports were banned. She left Kabul with a burqa and traveled to her family’s hometown. She says “Even if my life was difficult, I used to have confidence in myself and knew that, with effort, I could do what I wanted”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times

Staff Reporter

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