[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Afghan women's Olympic dream
Friba Rezihi
Friba Rezihi lived and trained in the Palestinian territories for five years
Two athletes set to become the first women ever to represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games have told the BBC about their hopes for the competition.

Robina Muqimyar, who will run in the 100 metres, and Friba Rezihi, who will compete in judo, have been preparing for the Games on the Greek island of Lesbos, ahead of their debut at the games in Athens in August.

Afghanistan was suspended from the Olympic movement in 1999.

"I'm really happy to be participating in these games," Muqimyar told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"I'm really happy that for the first time I will be in these games and I can raise the Afghan flag worldwide."

'The time to dream'

Rezihi said she was thankful to the Greek government for giving the pair permission to train in the country.

"It's a big opportunity for us and our people, and we will take advantage of this opportunity," she added.

"I want to be a role model for my country."

Olympic stadium, Athens
The Games will begin on 13 August
She added that she was not aiming to get a medal - which would be highly unlikely - but to "show people that it's a good chance and it's a good thing".

"It's like a gold medal for us to participate as Afghan women after a long, long time," she added.

Rezihi, who lived in the Palestinian territories between 1995 and 2000, only returned to Afghanistan after the country's hardline Taleban rulers fell.

She took up judo on the advice of her coach.

Both athletes were prevented from training under the Taleban. The national stadium was used to stage executions and floggings.

"We couldn't do any sort of sport. I couldn't feel secure enough to go out," Muqimyar said.

"The moment the Taleban went out of Afghanistan we started again... before this we couldn't do it.

"In the Taleban's time, we couldn't even dream about it. Now the time is our dream has started."

Conservative opposition

Although the Taleban have gone, there are still a number of strongly conservative mullahs in the country's interim government that have voiced opposition to Afghanistan's athletes competing in the Olympics.

Robina Muqimyar
I'm not scared of anything at the moment
Robina Muqimyar
Abdul Matin Mutasem Bilal, a mullah at Kabul's Abu Bakar Sidiq Mosque, has argued that they cannot attend because the strict Islamic dress code requires that all but a woman's hands, feet and face be covered.

"When I tell you that her neighbour shouldn't see all her face, how should thousands of foreigners, non-Muslims, in a big stadium be allowed to see her body?" he said.

Zia Dashti, the Afghan Olympic Committee's vice president, has said that the woman competing on the track will be required to wear tracksuits and not show their legs.

Muqimyar said she would "wear whatever they tell me to wear".

But she added that she did not see too many problems: "I'm not scared of anything at the moment.

"I'm really happy and dreaming of going back home to being welcomed by my own people."

And she added that she would be channelling her anger at being prevented from participating for so long into her performance.

"I learned from the Taleban how to be oppressed," she said.

"I'm going to teach people how to struggle against them, how to learn and how to get whatever you want in life."

Afghans dream of Olympic glory
21 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Football family helps Afghanistan
17 Sep 03  |  World Football
Afghanistan back in Olympics
29 Jun 03  |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific