Taliban ban sport for taekwondo star
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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The room is freezing. There is a wispy curtain over the window that lets in the soft morning light. The street outside seems forbidden and hostile. If not dangerous.
Now let’s move on to the story of Anzorat Wali.
The empty room is where she and her older sister Nilab practice taekwondo. Anzorat has a black belt and a handful of jingling medals. She doesn’t remember exactly how many gold medals she won, but it’s a lot.
And everything stopped the day the Taliban arrived. The bursting of dreams. The end of freedom. A life that now seems hopeless, and she is only 19 years old.
“I don’t want anything big,” she told me, in a soft voice and confident English, sometimes smiling, sometimes unbearably sad. “It’s our right to do something for ourselves, to fight for ourselves.”
They practice at home as all gyms are closed to Afghan women and girls. Taekwondo has become a world for boys only. Boys have rights. Girls don’t.
“Women’s rights don’t mean anything to them,” she says, a teenage lament that sounds more like weariness than anger. “We are getting worse day by day, just sitting at home, eating and sleeping. Nothing else.”
The two used to train by jogging around the neighborhood. Everyone knew the Wali sisters. The Taliban took it. Now they rarely go out, trapped in their house by fear.
“I had a lot of hopes and dreams,” Anzorat said, her voice fading to tears. “We have nothing now. Our rights, our freedom, our jobs. I mean we have nothing here.
She uses that word a lot. “Nothing.” In two syllables, it sums up a youthful state of mind, adrift in despair.
She took up taekwondo for the purest of reasons: to learn how to fight. Years of training have given him strong, firm legs and a powerful kick.
“It was necessary for any girl to know how to fight for self-defense in Afghanistan.”
But then she started winning competitions, and it was from there that her biggest dream was born, that of competing in the Olympics. She is a young woman who has never been satisfied with winning silver or bronze.
“What an athlete wants is to do something for me, for my country,” wiping away more tears unabashedly.
Her family is Tajik, which is not a good thing in Afghanistan these days. It is a Tajik leader who resisted the Taliban the longest.
His brother Milad worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His sister and mother held good positions in other departments. They were quiet and comfortable. The Taliban also kidnapped him. Now they are all unemployed.
“Life was so beautiful,” he says. “Just a normal life. There were no problems.
Until a beating by the Taliban sends him to the hospital. He was in line to apply for passports. Relatives in Vancouver are trying to bring them to Canada.
“I only felt a little pain, but after one night it got worse. I told my family it was going to kill me.
He is immensely proud and protective of his younger sister. Like it happens when someone near you achieves amazing success.
“She was in love with her sport,” he says. “And when I saw her, she had a happy look on her face.”
The look on his face now looks more like sadness. She returns to the words that escape her mouth like a moan.
“We have nothing now. We have nothing.
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