Sports for women were banned during the dark Taliban years. But in the last six years a 23-year-old Afghan woman with a black belt in karate has been teaching 35 girls in her favorite sport and she hopes to enter them in national competitions.
When Nahid Piruz returned to Afghanistan six years ago from Iran she had a dream of starting a karate team. She began by teaching at a local sports club and then became head of Female Sports Unity in Herat.
Now she teaches karate to women at the Mirwais Sadiq Gym in Herat during special women’s hours.
Nahid is an example of the kind of Afghan woman today who is talented and can prove herself when she gets the chance. Her goal is to be a national coach in the future.
Nahid said she was born in Tehran during the war and was always interested in sports.
She explains, “My uncle worked in karate and I attended some of his competitions. That encouraged me to follow him in sports.” She started taking karate classes at age ten and moved up the stages one by one until she earned her black belt. She won silver and bronze medals at competitions in Iran. Her family was her greatest supporter. She practiced at home, sometimes annoying the neighbors with her loud voice during practice. She became the top sports woman at her school.
Since the fall of the Taliban, sports have returned to schools. Many schools now have teams in volleyball, basketball, or tennis.
In Herat, the lack of sports clubs and proper equipment are the main challenges to having a revolution in female sports. Herat has two karate clubs, one in Herat City and the other in Jibrail in the Ingil District. Most of the clubs are used by students. There are active female clubs in body building, Wusho, and Kung Fu. There are also small clubs for volleyball and basketball in the schools as well as a new women’s tennis team in Herat.
Nahid said the people of Herat accept female sports with some limitations. Some families do not believe in letting their girls play sports and don’t understand that sports are good for the health of the body and the mind. They can also help students develop their talents.
Her students are now getting ready for the national competition. One of her students, Lala, said she thinks Nahid is a hero for Herat girls and women and she has learned much from the classes.
Photo by the author