In the training facility of Hangzhou, China, Afghan women are making a mark on the volleyball court.
The rise of the Taliban after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 saw many of these athletes flee Afghanistan.
In the shadow of a regime that outlaws women’s sports, they’ve rebuilt their lives in countries like Pakistan and Iran.
Mursal Khedri, a member of the volleyball team that is now based in Pakistan, said: “Women at home who see us here can find hope that participation in sports is possible for them.”
Wearing traditional Afghanistan colours, the team trains under the guidance of experienced Iranian coach, Nasrin Khazani.
Their presence at the Asian Games is not just about victory but is a symbol of hope, states Khushal Malakzai, secretary general of the Afghanistan Volleyball Federation, Reuters reported.
“This participation sends a message of support and hope to the women both inside and outside Afghanistan,” he said.
Malakzai, who now lives in Melbourne, fled Afghanistan after receiving threats from the Taliban due to his fight for women’s sports.
Despite the excitement of the games, these women are worried. They fear any spotlight on them might have consequences for loved ones back in Afghanistan.
Compiled by staff writer
Pictured above: Afghanistan women’s volleyball team
Image source: Twitter