Zargouna Nouri is a fighter. The 22-year-old taekwondo champion had aspirations to represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games in Paris. But since the Taliban came to power, seemingly determined to prevent women from exercising, it has felt defeated.
«Our lives have been turned upside down,” she said in an AFP interview at her home in Herat, the capital of western Afghanistan. “In sports, when we lose, we feel terribly bad,” Analyze. There the Taliban government defeated us.
Zargona Nouri, star of the Afghan Academy. She won a national title in 2018, and now she is coaching the women’s team in Herat.
Surrounded by her medals, she recalls: “Every member of the taekwondo team dreamed that one day we would participate in the Olympics, or that we would raise the Afghan flag in international competitions.” “But now we all have to stay at home. Every day we feel depressed.”
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, in which fighters hit and kick their opponents. In 2008, Ruhollah Nikbai awarded Afghanistan its first ever Olympic medal by winning the men’s Bronze Medal in Beijing.
About 130 girls, aged between 12 and 25, are members of the Afghan Academy located in Herat. They told AFP they were no longer allowed to train.
Last week, the new Afghan director of sports and physical education, Bashir Ahmad Rostamzi, announced that the Taliban would allow “400 sports.” But he refused to say whether a woman could only exercise one.
While Islamists practiced strict segregation of women between 1996 and 2001, effectively excluding them from any sporting activity, they have attempted to present a more moderate face to the international community since they took power in mid-August.
Women’s sports ‘not necessary’
Their government appears to have recorded the return of middle and high school girls, who were denied education during their first reign. But the outlook looks bleak for women’s sports.
Ahmadullah Wasiq, a member of the Taliban’s cultural committee, recently felt that it was “not necessary” for women to exercise. Islamic law, according to fundamentalists, excludes co-education and obliges women to hide their forms.
“We all trained and did our best. But Zarghona Noori, who is in her fourth year of a physical education course at Kabul University, laments.
She says many female athletes hide in their homes for fear of possible reprisals from the Taliban. When they end up going out, they wear a burqa, and they can’t even wear sneakers, she continues.
However, the former champion of Afghanistan wants to resume training, so as not to waste ten years of hard work. Although she believes that she will have to leave Afghanistan: “Circumstances are like this, in which we do not see how to move forward in the country.”
Thus Zargona Nouri calls on “all international and Olympic athletes and members of the Olympic Committee” to help her sisters and herself “to go to a better place, even outside the country”.
Zahra, 22, another member of the national taekwondo team, feels “helpless”.
She told AFP that all her teammates, regardless of their gender, were unhappy with the Taliban coming to power. “Even men don’t have all their freedoms,” laments Zahra, who considers the Taliban “as it was in the past.” “They should not get in the way of girls and women.”
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