Exclusive: Sportswomen feel strangled by restrictions

KABUL (SW) -Salam Watandar’s findings from interviews with 20 female athletes in Afghanistan show that 17 of them want to migrate abroad due to the restrictions imposed on women’s sports.

They told Salam Watandar that they want to migrate to other countries to achieve their goals in the field of sports.

Among the 20 interviewed women, 17 athletes of the national team in various sports fields and three other athletes were members of government sports stadiums, who are now unemployed and stay at home due to the closure of sports stadiums and the restrictions imposed on female athletes in Afghanistan.

Among the 17 female athletes interviewed by Salam Vatandar, there were two Muay Thai national team players, nine national football team players, five volleyball players and one national boxing team player. Three other athletes, who were not included in the national team, one of them was in the field of Muay Thai, one was an athlete in the field of fitness (bodybuilding), and the other was a player of the “Kabul” team of the Afghanistan National Football Team Federation and also a boxing athlete.

Among the female athletes interviewed in this report, only one of them, who was a boxer during the republic, now lives in Pakistan.

Parveen Hosseini, a Muay Thai athlete who played in the national team for five years, and Umra, who also played in the Afghan women’s national football team for 12 years, say that they have decided to leave the country due to the restrictions imposed on female athletes.

Parveen said: “For me personally, playing sports was one of my most important interests and I wished that one day I could be useful to myself, my country and the people with this goal. If these conditions do not change and women are not given rights, we cannot stay in the country.”

Likewise, Umrah said that she wishes to live in a country where she can exercise freely. “It doesn’t matter which country; Asian or European or whatever, just a country where I can exercise freely, have my human rights and freely achieve whatever I want.”

Among the 20 female athletes interviewed by Salam Watandar, 17 of them say that they have suffered from mental illnesses due to the restrictions imposed on women’s sports by the caretaker government. They added that after losing hope of achieving their goals and dreams, they are tired of life and it has become difficult for them to continue living.

Marwa, a resident of Maidan Wardak who used to be a football player, told Salam Watandar: “Because we used to exercise a lot, our body was used to exercise, and since I quit exercising, I have always been depressed and my body has been damaged. Psychologically, the dreams I had disappeared with a change in the system, what was my dream was destroyed.”

Safa Golzar, a resident of Parwan, who has played in the selected youth football team for seven years, said that she is psychologically affected by the situation she is in. He adds: “I suffered a very severe mental blow to the point where I used psychotropic medication and received psychological counseling.”

In addition, among the women interviewed in this report, 14 athletes told Salam Watandar that in the past, they used to provide for themselves and their families with the income they got from this way, but now, along with other problems, they are also in a bad economic situation.

Shima Mohammadi, a resident of Samangan who used to play soccer and figure skating, said: “Our economic situation is not good at all. I and my family have been starving for days. The girls in Afghanistan have no choice.”

Meanwhile, Zahra (pseudonym), another resident of Samangan, who played for 12 years in the Afghan national football team and in the field of boxing, said that she does not have an older brother and her father is also old. For this reason, with women being banned from sports, they have started working in other people’s homes.

She added that the problems of life in the last two years have been so difficult for her that she tried to commit suicide once.

Zahra said: “The economic problems were very back-breaking. I don’t have an older brother, my father is old, who will pay for my expenses? what should I do? I can’t afford it, I can’t afford it. I tried to find halal bread for my family.”

However, Zahra Fayazi, the deputy of the Afghanistan National Volleyball Federation in the previous regime, said that women in Afghanistan do not have the right to any sports activities. She wants international institutions to support female athletes in Afghanistan. “Unfortunately, they are not allowed to do any sports activities and almost all of them have stayed at home. We want the international organizations to support women, not to forget the women of Afghanistan, the female athletes are inside Afghanistan.