Jargunna Noori is a fighting warrior. The 22-year-old taekwondo champion aspires to represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games in Paris. But since the Taliban came to power and decided to ban women from sports, she seems to have lost.
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⁇All our lives have been turned upside down, ”she lamented, AFP interviewed at her home in the western Afghan capital, Herat. “In sport, when we lose, we feel very bad,” she analyzes. “There we were defeated at the hands of the Taliban government.”
Jargunna Noori is a star of the Afghan Academy. She won the national title in 2018 and is currently coaching the Herat-based women’s team.
“Every member of the taekwondo team dreamed that one day we would compete in the Olympics or fly the Afghan flag at international competitions,” she recalled. “But now we all have to stay home. Every day we get more and more depressed.”
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art where combat fighters beat and kick their opponents. In 2008, Rohullah Nick won a bronze medal for Afghanistan’s men in Beijing and won the first Olympic medal in history.
About 130 girls, aged 12 to 25, are members of the Afghan Academy in Herat. They will no longer be allowed to train, they told AFP.
Last week, the new Afghan director of sports and physical education, Bashir Ahmed Rustamjoy, announced that the Taliban would allow “400 sports”. But he declined to say whether women could practice only one.
Although Islamists practiced strict segregation of women between 1996 and 2001, they effectively excluded them from sporting activities in an attempt to show a more moderate face to the international community since they came to power in mid-August.
Women’s sport “not necessary”
Their government seems to have re-enrolled middle school and high school girls who lost their schooling during their first administration. But the outlook for women’s sport seems vague.
Ahmedullah Wasik, a member of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission, recently said women should not “need” to play sports. Sharia, according to Islamic law, fundamentalists, exclude co-education, forcing women to hide their forms.
“We all trained and did our part, but all this was in vain,” laments Jargunna Noori, a fourth-year student of a physical education course at the University of Kabul.
Many players hid in their homes for fear of retaliation from the Taliban. When they finish going out, they wear a burqa and can’t even wear sneakers, she continues.
The former Afghanistan champion, however, wants to resume training so that “ten years of hard work is not in vain.” Although she felt that she would have to leave Afghanistan: “There are circumstances in which we do not see how the country will progress.”
Jargunna Noori called on “all international and Olympic athletes and members of the Olympic Committee” to help her so that she and her sisters could “go to a better place, even outside the country.”
Zahra (22), another member of the national taekwondo team, also feels “helpless”.
She told AFP that all her colleagues, regardless of gender, were dissatisfied with the Taliban coming to power. “Even men do not have their freedom,” the Taliban lamented to Zahra, “as in the past.” “They should not obstruct the way of girls and women.”