'Dying for peace:' Afghanistan's first female Olympian says women will not give up their liberties easily

1 month ago 14
PR Distribution

(CNN)Friba Rezayee made past successful 2004 erstwhile she became 1 of the first 2 Afghan women to vie astatine the Olympic Games.

When the judoka competed successful Athens, her begetter and 1 of her brothers told her it was arsenic if she had taken the "first measurement connected the moon."

It wasn't conscionable a peculiar infinitesimal for Rezayee: it was a momentous infinitesimal for women crossed Afghanistan. The judoka was present a awesome for a nine that, though acold from perfect, was yet changing.

    Women had much opportunities and the future, aft years of Taliban rule successful the 1990s wherever basal quality rights were taken distant from them, was looking brighter.

      But present the Taliban has returned to powerfulness successful Afghanistan and Rezayee fears that the advancement that has been made for women's lives implicit the past 20 years volition beryllium lost.

      Taliban leaders person precocious expressed their committedness to a "blanket amnesty" for each successful Afghanistan, including members of the Afghan subject and interpreters, but Rezayee says the aboriginal volition beryllium bleak for women successful the country.

      "After they [the Taliban] settee down, they person their authorities established, they volition spell aft the individuals who spoke against them," Rezayee, 33, told CNN Sport.

      "Women who went to school, women who went to universities and women who played sports."

      Born and raised successful Afghanistan, Rezayee moved to Canada arsenic a exile successful 2011 and has since acceptable up a non-profit organization, 'Women Leaders of Tomorrow,' which advocates for women's rights successful Afghanistan.

      The inaugural GOAL (Girls of Afghanistan Lead) besides looks to enactment pistillate judokas to vie and correspond their state connected the planetary stage.

      Since the Taliban swept into the superior of Kabul, Rezayee says the women she works with present fearfulness for their lives.

      "I'm successful interaction with them each day. They nonstop maine heartbreaking messages," she said.

      "Recently, the Afghan pistillate athletes visited the dojo (judo grooming gym). They held each other's hands. They hugged each other. They besides kissed the mats due to the fact that that was the past clip they're going to spot them and that was the past time of their freedom.

      "They're besides sending maine messages, pleading for their life, for their safety. All these women leaders oregon quality rights, women's rights activists privation to fly the country. They privation to fly the Taliban for evident reasons."

      Friba Rezayee successful  Vancouver, Canada, wherever  she moved successful  2011.

      'A question for freedom, for liberty, for life'

      Rezayee says she inactive remembers the brutality and oppression of the Taliban's "unimaginable" regime.

      She fled to Pakistan with her household aft the commencement of the group's archetypal regularisation successful 1996 but returned aft the US penetration successful 2001 and acceptable astir making the astir of newfound freedoms.

      It was arsenic a exile successful Pakistan that Rezayee says she fell successful emotion with boxing.

      She remembers watching heavyweight champion Mike Tyson connected a tiny crackling TV surface and being inspired by Laila Ali, the girl of sporting fable Muhammad Ali.

      "I fell successful emotion with however almighty Laila Ali was, what an icon she was. I wanted to bash the aforesaid thing," says Rezayee.

      On her instrumentality to Afghanistan, she enrolled astatine an all-girls schoolhouse and started grooming with a boxing coach, feeling empowered by the sport.

      "The past 2 decades, Afghan women worked truthful hard, they had truthful galore achievements," she said.

      "Women went to school, they had careers. Women ran for office, women ran businesses -- you sanction it -- the Afghan women did."

      Finding judo

      Except not each sections of Afghan nine were acceptable to judge these freedoms for women.

      Rezayee says she started to person decease threats and her manager yet said it was excessively unsafe to support training. The manager enactment her successful interaction with different trainer, who introduced her to judo.

      With the assistance of a charity, she fell successful emotion with the martial arts subject and trained alongside 2 different girls -- the lone women successful the full state to vie successful judo, she says.

      "It was a milestone for america and a important moment," Rezayee added.

      "[It was] precise unsafe due to the fact that the nine was not acceptable to spot pistillate athletes astatine that clip due to the fact that they were conscionable finishing and conscionable coming retired of the acheronian authorities of the Taliban.

      "It was highly dangerous, but I would bid hard. I did not attraction astir the societal stigma, what my relatives and the society...said.

      "I believed successful myself and I believed successful the different girls and I believed successful the sport."

      The Taliban knocked connected  her doorway  3 times. The 4th  time, they killed her

      After competing locally, Rezayee was yet selected to correspond her state astatine the 2004 Athens Olympics.

      She was 1 of lone 2 Afghan women to vie successful Greece -- the different being 100m sprinter Robina Muqim Yaar -- but the scheduling of the judo and way and tract events ensured Rezayee was the archetypal pistillate to measurement into authoritative competition, she says.

      She faced a four-time satellite champion from Spain and mislaid successful the archetypal circular but nevertheless made an indelible people connected Afghanistan's history.

      "I did not win. I was precise sad, I was heartbroken. I called my begetter and my older member backmost successful Afghanistan and said that I was truthful atrocious I didn't win, I fto you down," she said.

      "But my begetter and 1 of my brothers said: 'Don't worry, you didn't win, but you made history.'"

      However, connected her instrumentality to Afghanistan, Rezayee says she was forced into hiding for a fewer months.

      She said fundamentalists successful the state "wanted her dead" and that she besides feared for the information of her family.

      After a household calamity successful 2005, Rezayee fled to Pakistan again earlier yet seeking refuge successful Canada successful 2011.

      She has not returned to her beloved state since 2013 but has nary regrets astir her determination to correspond Afghan women connected the planetary stage.

      "I wanted to amusement the patriarchy successful Afghanistan that women are adjacent (to) men and they tin participate," she said.

      "And I besides wanted the women's competition, women's sports, women's rights to beryllium precise mean successful the eyes of the patriarchy and different radical and besides to amusement to the satellite that determination are women successful Afghanistan and they play sport."

      'We volition go a absorption group'

      Watching the quality unfold implicit the past fewer days has devastated Rezayee, and she says she is frightened of what this authorities volition do.

      Despite their nationalist pronouncements, she doesn't judge that the Taliban person changed and called connected satellite leaders to topple the recently formed regime.

      More positively, she believes determination is inactive a accidental that women tin correspond Afghanistan astatine aboriginal Olympic Games. She is moving connected a task to nonstop Afghan women judokas to Paris successful 2024 and called connected the world's sporting governing bodies to assistance Afghan athletes.

      In a connection to CNN, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was "monitoring the concern and is successful interaction with the athletics assemblage successful Afghanistan."

      "At the aforesaid time, we person forwarded applicable accusation to a fig of liable governments. For evident reasons of information of acrophobic people, we would not remark further astatine this stage," the connection continued.

      CNN has besides contacted the Afghan Olympic Committee but has yet to person a response.

      Despite the chaos and traumatic pictures coming from the state this week, Rezayee inactive has hope.

      That, she says, is thing the Taliban tin ne'er instrumentality distant from the women of Afghanistan.

      "My connection to Afghan women successful Afghanistan close present is to enactment strong. This is simply a nightmare, but nightmares don't past precise long," she said.

      "We volition marque this through. If thing else, we volition go a absorption group. We volition combat for our rights nary substance what.

      "Once, we mislaid our rights successful the 1990s -- we are not going to fto that hap again. Stay strong. Stay successful touch. Also enactment precise intelligent.

        "I judge successful peace. Peace, prosperity and quality rights volition prevail.

        "Everybody's dying for peace."

        Read Entire Article