A new, brazen generation of young women in Afghanistan are challenging the mores of Afghan society, and the Taliban itself, by pursuing dreams of representing their homeland in the Olympic games as female boxers.
Traditionally hidden behind burqas, these women are now diligently training and perfecting their boxing techniques in secluded gyms -- of which there are reportedly many -- across the country. But despite their lofty goals and best of intentions, all is not well, as the athletes must contend with militant Islamists who consider their pursuits as "haraam" or, forbidden. These boxers also face the added challenges of being denied treatment by male doctors if they are injured and are regularly flogged for engaging in "taboo" athletic endeavors.
According to the reporter on the scene, the self-defense skills these women are honing are vital. Sadly, they will likely be needed outside the competition ring, rather than inside it.
The following are excerpts from the report on female boxers in Afghanistan which aired on Al-Arabiya TV January 6, 2012. Partial transcript and translations provided by the dedicated staff at MEMRI:
Reporter: These girls undergo intensive training in this modestly equipped gym. The broken mirrors, dusty floors, and threats from the Taliban have not discouraged Shaban or her younger sister Sadaf from practicing female boxing, their preferred sport.
Female boxer: I have to have great success in the world of boxing, and to win a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, for the glory of my country. This gym was opened four years ago, and it serves 25 girls from various regions in Afghanistan.
Trainer: We demand that the Afghan government, businessmen, and private companies support our national women's boxing teams, as well as other sports.