PARIS: Among the 3,000 people arriving in France to start a new life last August after the Taliban´s return to power in Afghanistan was Marzieh Hamidi.
Hamidi is a national taekwondo champion, but the Taliban´s repressive treatment of women forced her to flee Kabul to follow her dream away from her family and friends.
Born in exile in Iran she once again finds herself in exile, this time in Paris, the home of the 2024 Olympics which features prominently in her plans.
She tells AFP the Taliban made it impossible for her to remain in and represent her country on the international sporting arena.
“How could my conscience accept that I fight under their (Taliban) flag who have killed women in the name of Jihad for 20 years, because they say if you get education then you are a bad woman.”
In Afghanistan sport was her way of making “my people proud, for the women and for myself”.
“But it didn’t happen and once again I became a refugee.
“Still I practice for the same goal especially after the arrival of the Taliban, I decided to work harder than before and go to the Olympics to be proud of my country.”
Hamidi, 20, is driven by the need to represent those she has left behind.
“My success is my fight against the terrorist group that is against the women.
“And through this sport I fight for the women of Afghanistan and try to be the voice of Afghan women, especially athletes who are stuck in Afghanistan and no one hears their voice.”
She remembers turning up for training back home every day and standing in front of her national flag.
“I wanted to raise the Afghan flag and wanted people to say that she is an Afghan girl and the pride of Afghanistan, but they took that wish away from me.”
Now, exiled, she appreciates she will have to join the International Olympic Committee´s Refugee team, which competed for the first time at the 2016 Rio Games.
Her new coach in France, Jesse Van Thuyne, says that while there is an understandable amount of physical work to do after such a lengthy layoff and after all she has been through Hamidi has impressed him with her technical skills.
“Her kick techniques are really very good, so Marzieh has to regain her athleticism and then with her technical ability it´ll be ideal to resume competition.”
Van Thuyne´s club is through its partnership with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation home to other taekwondo-practicing refugees like Hamidi.
“We are going to do everything to support her in her bid to compete in Paris 2024,” he stated.
Despite embarking on a new chapter in her life many thousands of miles away from Kabul, Hamidi says she remains in touch with “all the taekwondo girls who have been stuck in Afghanistan”.
“They are becoming frustrated every day, they can´t do the sports, they can´t study.
“And worse than that, the world is silent about what is happening to the women in Afghanistan and no one nor any institution has helped women athletes and they have been very much ignored.”
Should she realize her dream Hamidi will be doing her utmost to give those she has left behind a voice at the Paris Games next year.