Shafiqa Mohammadi, a talented Savate athlete from Afghanistan, was a young woman who, amidst the suffocating constraints of the Taliban, defied the odds and embarked on a journey to foreign lands. She participated in the World Combat Games and proudly secured a bronze medal. In this competition, which took place from October 20th to 30th, featuring sixteen different sporting disciplines in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she represented Afghan female athletes under the banner of the Afghanistan Savate Federation. With the support of one of her mentors, she competed in the 52-kilogram weight class against opponents from various countries.
During this event, she triumphed over her Romanian competitor with a score of 3-0, earning herself a well-deserved third-place position. Shafiqa achieved this remarkable feat while facing numerous challenges and restrictions in Iran. She considers this accomplishment a significant achievement and believes that it’s not just about winning a bronze medal. She’s determined to participate in future competitions to represent the girls deprived of education and sports in Afghanistan. Shafiqa’s goal is to claim the gold medal, not just for herself but for all the young girls of Afghanistan.
Shafiqa Mohammadi, a 20-year-old athlete from Ghazni province, has defied traditional societal norms with the support of her family. For five years, she dedicated herself to the sport known as “Savate,” in Afghanistan. Before the Taliban’s rule, she had achieved significant success in this field. After the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, like many other female athletes, she was forced to leave behind her career and sought refuge in Iran.
She now finds herself competing in the World Combat Games while facing numerous challenges and restrictions in Iran. Despite her dedication and talent, she struggles to train properly in these circumstances.
Following the Taliban’s return to power and the severe restrictions they imposed on women’s professional, educational, and civil lives, Shafiqa and her comrades faced the closure of their sports club by Taliban fighters. After years of dedication and hard work, they found themselves confined to their homes, separated from the world of sports. However, Shafiqa’s passion for her sport drove her to transform her home into a training ground, moving her sports equipment from the club to her home.
In secrecy, she and her friends trained at home for six months. Yet, the gathering of young women interested in sports caught the attention of the Taliban, leading to a complete ban on women’s participation in sports. These increasing and suffocating limitations prompted her to leave her homeland and seek refuge in a foreign land. There, she continued her pursuit of sports, aiming to achieve her goals, which included competing with world-class Savate athletes.
However, Iran, her new home, did not prove to be a conducive place for Afghan aspirations. She carried her dreams with her, hoping to find success and a pathway to realize her ambitions. Unfortunately, her efforts were in vain, as Iran had adopted a strict policy against Afghan refugees, following the Taliban’s rise to power. This policy made it difficult for Afghan citizens to thrive in the country, and Shafiqa became one of the victims of Iran’s oppressive policies against Afghan refugees.
After migrating to Iran, she became engrossed in the hardships of life and distanced herself from the world of sports for a while. However, the announcement of the World Combat Games brought her back on the path toward her goals. She learned about the competition through one of her mentors, and due to her merit, the Afghanistan Savate Federation registered her as a female athlete for the event. Shafiqa, filled with joy at the prospect of competing again after a long hiatus, sought out Iranian coaches to prepare for the tournament.
She approached the Iranian coaches, asking them to help her train effectively and shine in the competition. However, the coaches demanded an exorbitant amount of money from her. She shared, “Though I had no expectations and had already understood the repressive treatment of Afghan refugees by the people of this country, I made an effort and requested assistance. Still, they insisted on multiple times the sum of money and said I needed to hire a private coach. Due to this, I couldn’t pay the amount they demanded.”
Despite their knowledge that she was going to participate in one of the world’s biggest competitions, they provided no cooperation. The only option left for her was to find one of her friends, who was also a member of the Afghanistan Savate Federation and had arrived in Iran some time ago. Shafiqa contacted her friend and urgently requested her to come and train with her. With only ten days left before the competition, she had to train rigorously. Her friend accepted the request and arrived, but they faced another challenge: they had no place to train.
The only place that came to mind was the public parks in Iran, as it was the only place they could practice. Despite the difficulties and insults they expected to endure from Iranians, they decided to train hard and prepare for the competition. Shafiqa had her eyes set on victory and was determined to succeed, even without a coach, despite the challenges and the sometimes ridiculous behavior of the Iranians. She continued her training, persevering through the difficult workouts, and after rigorous preparations, she set off for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to participate in the competition.
In this competition, she fought as a female athlete from Afghanistan, someone who had left her country with a broken heart, amidst the Taliban’s restrictions, and ventured into the world to raise the three-colored flag of her homeland. She competed against athletes from eight different countries and secured the bronze medal. Although achieving third place is not enough for her, she considers herself fortunate to have won a bronze medal in a country where girls are deprived of even the most basic rights. They lack the permission to attend school, study, or play sports, yet she managed to win a medal and bring a smile to the lips of her fellow countrywomen.
Shafiqa, as an Afghan girl deprived of her right to play sports, one who initially clashed with her traditional society and now confronts the Taliban’s women-restrictive policies, remains resilient and unbowed. She appeals to the global community and sports-supporting organizations not to forget the Afghan female athletes who have been left behind in the world of sports.