Nilofar Bayat, captain of the Afghan wheelchair basketball team and women’s rights activist, now in Spain after being evacuated from her country, talks about how she feared for her life when the Taliban took control from Afghanistan:
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This sportswoman begs the international community not to abandon Afghanistan and her compatriots, “Because the Taliban have not changed”.
“We want the United Nations, all countries, to help Afghanistan”, forcefully called this young woman of 28 years, Monday during a press conference in Bilbao, in the Basque Country (north of Spain), organized by the Spanish commission of assistance to the refugees.
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In the company of her husband Ramesh, she arrived near Madrid on Friday thanks to the airlift set up by Spain, before reaching Bilbao, where, she said, she intends to play basketball again. ” as soon as possible “.
She recounts in great detail the terrible days and hours leading up to her departure:
“The day I saw the Taliban around my house, I panicked, I started to think about myself and my family […]. They could kill me, because I appear in many videos where I talk about the Taliban, basketball, my participation in women’s marches in Afghanistan ”, she explains in English.
Panic at the airport
This former law student then decides to go to Kabul airport, where the Spanish embassy assured her that she would have a seat on a plane.
It is there, in the chaos and the general panic, “That I spoke to the Taliban for the first time”, she says.
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“They beat me, me and me husband […]. I cried a lot, not because they had beaten us ”, but thinking “To what they have done with our country”, confides the young woman.
After two days spent at the airport, “With nothing to sleep on” and with “Not enough food for all”, she manages to board with her husband in the second Spanish military plane which must leave Kabul for Dubai.
The Taliban, she will never be able to forget them, she who lost a leg at 2 years old when a rocket hit her house, killing her brother and injuring her father.
The Taliban “Destroyed everything I have worked so hard for in recent years”, continues Nilofar.
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“I am the best proof that the Taliban are dangerous”, she says. And to add: “There is no future, there is no hope. “
There is still basketball to try to escape, even briefly, this reality: “When I am in the room, when I play basketball, I forget everything that is happening in my country, and also that I have a disability. “
The young woman became interested in wheelchair basketball after seeing the men playing the sport.
She played a decisive role in setting up an Afghan women’s team, despite reluctance, in a country where many people suffer from a disability as a result of an attack or polio.
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Nilofar Bayat arrived in Spain, a basketball country, thanks to the intervention of a Spanish journalist friend.
She chose to settle in Bilbao with her husband Ramesh Naik Zai, 27, himself a player of the Afghan basketball team.
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She says she received “A lot of offers” disabled basketball clubs, including that of Bidaideak Bilbao BSR, and hopes to start ” as soon as possible “.