Combat Afghan sportswomen go underground to dodge Taliban

Kabul, Jan 25 (EFE).- The Taliban ban on female sports has forced Afghan women taekwondo players to practice underground.

The situation has not weakened the morale of the team members, accustomed to going against the tide in a conservative Afghan society that seeks to relegate them to their homes.

Such is the case of Farzana Frotan.

Her participation in the 2015 World Taekwondo Championships and a gold medal at the 2016 WTF international taekwondo tournament in Tajikistan did not earn her a ban exemption from the Taliban.

“I was dreaming of becoming a champion, not only in international competitions but at the Olympics as well. But right now, I stay at home and cannot even go to the club,” Frotan told EFE.

The athlete trains a day or two a week with her teammates clandestinely at different places due to fear of being discovered.

National coach Nematullah Habibi told EFE that once Taliban members came soon after they had finished training and in retaliation, they “tortured the household for facilitating the practice session.”

Habibi bore the brunt when they checked his mobile phone at a checkpoint and discovered several videos of his trainees.

“They beat me despite me telling them that those videos were old,” he said.

The Taliban repression is not the only obstacle these women face in their sporting careers.

They have been the victims of conservative Afghan society.

Frotan related how she had a tough time convincing her family.

“I was in love with taekwondo…but my parents did not agree and told me the sport was not suitable for girls,” the 28-year-old said.

Many taekwondo enthusiasts have earned Afghanistan several medals in the last two decades. But it is still viewed as an exclusively male sport.

To obtain parental approval, Frotan told them that if she learned taekwondo, she could defend herself from being abused by boys.

She finally secured their approval after much convincing.

For Frotan and her teammates, the taekwondo practice goes beyond sports and extends to other areas of their lives, including education.

“The sport, especially for women in Afghanistan, is the key to a happy and healthy life,” Husnia Sadat, 23, another member of the national taekwondo team, told EFE.

“The sport gave me confidence and I don’t feel as vulnerable as other women do in Afghanistan.”

Frotan, too, has studied nursing, law, and diplomacy and is currently doing an undergraduate degree course in English.

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