“we could Not continue there. In Afghanistan there are no rights for women, there is no life for women. I got tired of crying day and night. We lived with so much fear. We went to boxing in the morning and we didn’t know if we were going to return home alive at night”. Shabnam Rahimi is 26 years old, is the third of four sisters and a brother. You’re sitting on the couch of the floor that lives in a neighborhood south of Madrid, together with her sister Sadaf, 24, who is at his side. They ran the two of Afghanistan in July of 2016; only to tell their parents. Nobody else in the family, of neighbors, of friends, of colleagues and classroom teachers, I knew nothing. Neither knows how. Still believe that they have gone abroad to study.


“afghan women risk their lives to play football”

It’s a fall Sunday in Madrid, and Shabnam and Sadaf are of free day. Draw a folder of a small bookcase and teach proud a residence card —”refugee Status, residence permit of work”, put in the back— they got in October 2018. “Put it here, look, we can stay until 2024,” says Sadaf, the first boxer women’s national team of afghanistan, the first also to participate in a world championship. A feat taking into account the obstacles put in the way. “Your request [for asylum] picked up a persecution for reasons of gender; the agent of persecution was the State and the reason was gender. If they had been men, they had never been persecuted. It is a persecution for gender reasons”, explains Paloma Favieres, a lawyer from CEAR (Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid), which processed the request of the two sisters Rahimi.

“I was very much afraid. There was a person in the Federation of boxing that he threatened me: ‘how do you find alone in the street, I’m going to throw acid’. It was all very difficult,” said Sadaf, who pronounce the name of that person, but you prefer not to quit writing. “They threatened us [from the Federation], to us and to my father. They wanted to close the women’s section of boxing, but we do not accept, we wanted to continue, wanted to defend that women can also box and do sport. For the taliban that is feminism, they don’t want women to have a role in society. We sent a letter to all the girls of the school in which we were warned that if we continued boxing and not closed it, they were going to attack all women”, explains Shabnam.

“In the Federation threatened us to throw us acid,” recalls Sadaf

The afghan team boxing female was born in 2007. Sabir, the coach that drove him (and that also ended up fleeing Afghanistan), he toured all the schools of Kabul, to capture the attention of girls. At the beginning, pointed four, among them the sisters Rahimi, then they were coming over.

Sadaf and Shabnam had just come back to his country after nearly nine years as refugees in Iran (her family decided to flee when it introduced the regime of the taliban). “In Iran I was hooked to boxing, I saw on tv the fighting Laila Ali [daughter of Muhammad Ali] and he said to me: ‘If this girl can, I also, some day I will do what she” remembers Sadaf. She was selected to participate in the London Games, but the Olympic Committee of Afghanistan denied the plaza a month before —I never gave explanations— and he commanded a boxer man.

Hide gloves

The women’s national team was created with the permission of the Government and, at the beginning, had the support of the Olympic Committee of Afghanistan and of the Federation. “Then things started to change, not wanted to that we improved, nor that we were far away”, explains Shabnam. Things started to go wrong also as I was changing the political situation and the groups most conservatives acquired more power and influence, also within the Federation. Did not see with good eyes that had women’s boxing, and that the sisters Rahimi got medals in international tournaments. The women’s national team no longer exists, ceased to do so when they marched.

“When I came to Spain I was afraid of the street, to the people,” says Shabnam

Boxeaban in spite of the threats because this sport was her life; the boxing was for them all in a country, as they explain, in which women are made to marry, have babies and take care of the home and may not assume responsibilities outside the home”. What they practiced against it all and against all. And only with the support of a teacher from the school, the coach and their parents. Training at the olympic stadium in Kabul, where the taliban executed women. Did only three days a week —because there was a place more free time for the girls entrenaran alone—; it made hiding in the backpack, the gloves and changing clothes in the stadium. “Nothing we had to identify as boxers, because if not, threatened us and insulted her. A day on the bus back home to Sadaf pop out a piece of glove in the backpack. A woman began to shout: ‘they Are boxers!’. Quickly approached all of the men and surrounded us, not letting us down,” says Shabnam.

Sadaf leads a training at the school of boxing women of Kabul. SHAH MARAI afp

Boxeaban because they liked, because they were good, because they saw nothing wrong in doing sport, because dreamed of competing in the Olympics, because they wanted to be an example to the other girls and women. “Many want to get out [of the house], but they can’t, they don’t have rights. Their fathers and brothers tell them that they can’t; and when they marry, they tell the husbands. I wanted to teach them that yes we can,” says Sadaf.

Boxeaban despite the punishments and ill-treatment. A year after the London Games, in 2013, the association for Women in Sport, invited the two sisters and the technical Sabir to participate in a competition in the United Kingdom. Sadaf was already known in his country, had come out on tv, many foreign media had traveled to Kabul to tell their story, and their preparation for the Games. Not allowed to participate in that competition because they believed that they were going to take advantage of the trip to escape. From that time, any output —he told one of the trainers— had to be authorized by the Federation and the Olympic Committee of Afghanistan. The trip to which they were invited in 2013 was seen as illegal. The Federation and the Olympic Committee of Afghanistan began to consider the sisters Rahimi some traitors and some apestadas. His reputation was no longer the same. “At the turn of a competition in Mongolia, the Federation began to say that I had relationships with the coach. I swore and perjuré that was a lie. I could not more, it was impossible to fight against it. I quit boxing a few months for this situation. When we would go out to the extranjero, we would do something different or we would not do what they said, ran the rumor that we were having sex with someone”, you confide in Sadaf.

Boxearon until I could not more. And took advantage of the premiere of the documentary Boxing for Freedom [which he recorded his adventures as a sport for four years, the fears and the threats] to hop a plane to Spain and not return to set foot in Kabul. The ticket was round trip. But stayed in the capital of Spain and requested asylum. For two months they stayed in the home of Silvia Venegas and Juan Antonio Moreno, the directors of the documentary —presented to Goya, 2016—. They processed the visa so that both could go to the premiere, and they were introduced to Paloma Favieres, the lawyer.

Today working in the cleaning and as a cashier in search of a better future

“I told Sadaf: ‘If we return to Kabul we will not be able to continue with our life, our life will be not leaving the house,” says Shabnam, who convinced his sister not to return. “Before you catch the plane we asked the translator to ask John and Silvia if they were going to have some type of problem with us we stayed to seek asylum. They told us that ahead of and that would help us”, they say. In the suitcase brought and also titles of study. “When I finish my working day I go to class to get the THAT because my diploma has no value here,” says Sadaf. Her sister dreams of studying Social Science. The first work in a program of the City of Madrid and is dedicated to cleaning the streets. The second is a cashier at a supermarket. “It is well to live, but we look for something better for our future,” says Shabnam.


In 2012, dreamed of going to the Games, with get away, with boxing and learning to play the guitar. Seven years after the dream of a better future and are happy to go out on the street without a handkerchief. With 26 and 24 years are remaking your life. Shabnam has needed the help of a psychologist. “I’ve forgotten the fear that I spent and how much I cried. But when I came to Spain began to see a psychologist because I was afraid to go to the streets, to the people. Now that I’m here I realize what we had to endure in our country”, he confesses. “I still am afraid of the men. I can not speak with them if they are drunk. I turn away. My friends call me old, but I need time to change”, be sincere Sadaf.

At home saved some boxing gloves barely used and the only trace of his past athletes is a photo in a frame with the letters LOVE a workout in Badajoz 2016, when still neither spoke Spanish. “The first time I saw them were two girls, frightened, with a lot of fear. I explained to them, with the help of a translator, the procedure and the consequences that had the application: once granted the status of refugee could not return to his country. I don’t know what went through their heads at that moment, what I sensed was the fear of girls to a new world,” recalls Paloma Favieres. The parents, who always defended that they were free —that is to say, to practise sport, to study and not to marry out of obligation— are still in Afghanistan along with their two other sisters and her brother.

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