Monday, April 15

‘I am losing my skills’: female boxer who was on Afghan national team | Afghanistan

*Mariam and her sister were on the national boxing team and the youth boxing team. They were ordered by the Taliban to stop practising, and are frightened they may be targeted in the future. The interview was interrupted by a hail of gunshots near the place they are staying.


Afghanistan: the left behind


Afghanistan: the left behind

The crowds fighting to get into Kabul airport for evacuation dispersed months ago, but while the scramble to leave Taliban-controlled Afghanistan became less visible when the last foreign troops left in August 2021, it got no less desperate.

Since then, reprisal killings have regularly been reported from across the country, including dozens detailed in a recent report from Human Rights Watch.

For those still in Afghanistan, living in hiding or in permanent fear for months now, the dangers seem to be increasing as the options for narrow escape.

The UK government has tightened rules for its ARAP visa program for former employees.

A second scheme offering a path to safety to a wider section of Afghans at risk was heavily promoted by the government but it only began operating this month, and there are no details of how individuals can apply.

And while the Taliban have largely kept a promise to allow those with tickets and documents to fly out, Afghan passports are difficult to secure, visas are even more challenging, and flights are still prohibitively expensive.

This series features the stories of those who are trapped, in Afghanistan or in limbo as they search for safe haven, fearing for their lives from Taliban attacks or through hunger because they cannot work.

Emma Graham-Harrison

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About two weeks after they took Kabul, the Taliban sent two gunmen to our doorstep. They told us: “Forget your dreams. The Islamic emirate is here now, you should stop boxing, and not go to the stadium.”

I had been a member of the Afghan national boxing team when the Taliban arrived. It took me three years to make the team, my family and friends had supported me a lot, and I had done a lot of training before I was finally able to do it. My sister had been part of the youth team for several months.

In August, me and my sister and the other team members went to the Olympic headquarters to prepare for a match, and the guards from the previous government took our identity cards to register us. We went to pick them up some days later, and we think some of the Taliban who were there followed us home.

The next day, at around 3.30pm, some of them came to our house and asked for the girls who did boxing. We said we didn’t know what they were talking about, and had nothing to do with any sports. But they said: “We saw you at the stadium.” Then they told us to stop boxing.

It was a very bad day, one that I will never forget. They were very brutal, and said: “How can you go to a stadium full of men and let them watch you exercising? As a woman, why are you even taking part in sports?” My brother is also a boxer, but the threats were only for me and my sister.

We had already got a threat letter from the Taliban and we were scared they might come looking for us again, so we left our house and moved to a rented room. Things are difficult for us women who are involved in sport, we haven’t been able to go out at all. Two women boxers were beaten up by the Taliban in the street.

My parents are now in danger because of our sports – we are afraid they will come back for us.

I am sure that while the Islamic emirate is here, we will not be able to box, even if they do not kill us. If I could leave, I could continue with boxing, and my sister could continue her education. She is a teenager and high school is closed for girls.

I really feel sad now, because I don’t have the boxing club, or money for expenses to practice on my own. I am losing my skills. I originally started training as a runner, then I saw women doing boxing and there were only a few. I decided to get involved and helped inspire others. When the Taliban came, about 100 women were doing boxing.

Please become our voice and tell the people of the world about our situation. Our lives are in danger because of our sport.

*The name has been changed for this article.

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