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For the Afghan athletes who took refuge in France, life is a martial art

“Our very distant sisters, yet so close. » The poet believed that he was done with obscurantism, he was the one who sang about that woman for years “the future of man”. “You will overcome these terrible times”prophesied by Jean Ferrat, in 2001, in One hundred letters to the women of Afghanistan. Two decades later, here are their successors.

There are five of them. Like the fingers of a hand, forever united by painful trials that are usually experienced: being torn from home, exile, settling in an unknown country, surviving thousands of kilometers away, the pain of family absence… That day we met the three of them. Nazanin A. (18 years old), Yasamin A. (23 years old) and Zahro M. (20 years old) were born and raised in Afghanistan. Ordinary childhoods, marked by inexhaustible parental love and numerous friendships.

The victories keep coming

One day taekwondo entered their lives. Revelation. This martial sport born in South Korea, which requires agility and flexibility, gradually forced itself on them. “Afghanistan is not safe country for women and young girls he never was, says Nazanin. I practiced taekwondo to find my voice, to feel free and to be able to defend myself if necessary. »

“When I was little, I watched a lot of sports on TV, and during the Olympic Games, taekwondo fascinated me, explains Zahro. Then I told myself that I wanted to become the first woman to win a medal. » Through hard work, perseverance and taking risks – even going to Afghanistan for training is not without its dangers – the athletes begin to shine.

They have the right to the first articles in the press, receive congratulations and enter the national selection. “Faced with the reluctance of some, we had to prove ourselves three more times. We wanted to prove to our parents, our friends, those around us that we are capable of it. Maybe we wouldn’t ask the same thing from a boy.”wants to trust Zahra. “My mother was a great support. She always made me go to training. Only later, when I saw that I really liked it, my father also supported me a lot.”Nazanin explains from his side.

The wins are rolling in and all dreams are allowed. But the Taliban coming to power in August 2021 undermines the promise of a bright future. “Everything has changed for us. Until then, you can go to school, college or have a job. This is impossible now. In the eyes of the Taliban, women do not exist. They have to hide, at home or in the kitchen…” confides Yasamin, her long black hair swept behind her back.

Arbitrariness, violence, exile

The facial features are childish, the silhouettes are slim. They are barely grown up, yet it seems they have already lived a thousand lives. Yasamin remembers trying to escape from Afghanistan in August 2021. She went to the airport, like many others. And there is carnage. Men, women, children killed before his eyes. Pools of blood, inert bodies. Images that will never leave his memory.

Returning home, he finds out that the hospital he usually goes to is hiring “non-Muslim staff”he was the target of an outbreak of unspeakable violence. “The Taliban killed every baby they found on their way. The mothers were in tears. These people feel nothing. They have no emotions.”she recalls.

Arbitrariness and fear are gaining ground. The people kept silent. “If they see you listening to music on the street, they hit you. Is prohibited “, Nazanin said. Taekwondo training is no longer a priority. It’s time to escape. They decide to go to Pakistan at the beginning of 2022.

The trip, which before the arrival of the Taliban cost 2 euros, now costs more than a thousand euros. “We have to understand what this means for us, Zahro insists. A thousand euros in Afghanistan is not 1000 euros in France. »

Especially since you have to get a visa. Nazanin doesn’t get his on time. Too bad we have to go. He crosses the border illegally, holds his breath for two days and breathes a huge sigh of relief there.

“A way to shout our solidarity in the face of all the haters”

“I felt terribly alonesays Zahro. It is a completely different country, with a special way of life. They don’t speak English in Pakistan. It was very complicated. » We have to go, but where? The French Taekwondo Federation, alerted to the situation, is working to welcome them to France.

The communist mayor of Bonneuil-sur-Marne, Denis Öztorun, does not hesitate to open their arms wide. The French Secours populaire is actively participating in the negotiations. The PCF councilor sees it as an extension of the fight “for human brotherhood, equality and justice. It’s also a way to shout our solidarity in the face of all the haters.”.

Young athletes have great ambitions. Nazanin dreams of becoming an airplane pilot, Yasamin is a doctor, and Zahro is a computer engineer. They are especially focused on the Olympic Games next year. Participation in this great international competition and the possibility, why not, of winning medals would be a great and just reward for these freedom fighters.

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