It is not many years ago that Afghan women were still being denied their most basic human rights under the Taliban. They were not allowed to receive education, to be employed, to go out alone or without wearing a burqa, and to laugh or speak loudly in case a stranger might hear their voices. They were beaten or flogged publicly for violating these and many other regulations. It was therefore inconceivable for women living through those years to expect that the next generation of women would be so fortunate as to take part in sports activities, competitions, and even martial arts.
One of these lucky young women is the eighteen year old Fereshteh Safari. She was six when her family moved to Iran, where she fulfilled her dream by joining a karate sports club in Tehran at the age of ten. It was not so easy for her to be the only Afghan girl in the club. Nonetheless she succeeded in a matter of a few years to win a silver medal in a karate competition held in Tehran.
After returning to Kabul, Fereshteh focused on another branch of martial arts called ‘new full contact’. Once more her passion and determination led to great success and she was the first woman to be promoted to the position of martial arts instructor. At present, as the instructor of the national women’s team, she has about seventy trainees but their number is steadily increasing. At the same time, the attitude of people towards sportswomen is also changing and they are treated more respectfully compared to even a few years ago.
Fereshteh has paved the way for a number of other women who are now instructors in several other branches of martial arts, such as karate, taekwondo, and boxing. Every year scores of Afghan women participate in martial arts championships abroad, with many bringing back gold or silver medals for their country.
In this multimedia report, Fereshteh Safari takes us to see her martial arts club in Kabul , whilst describing the story of her involvement with this sport and the groundbreaking achievements of Afghan women in this increasingly popular new activity.