Afghan karate champion Meena Asadi pounds the heavy bag as part of her training routine, but she fears female athletes still in her homeland may have already lost their fight to compete now that the Taliban are back in power.
Meena left Afghanistan when she was 12 and went to Pakistan, where she started karate training and later represented Afghanistan in the 2010 South Asian Games.
She returned to Kabul the next year and opened a fight club, but was forced to flee a second time due to violence and ended up in Indonesia with her husband and then 1-year-old daughter.
“I feel miserable. I lost my hope and the people of my country lost their hope, too,” Meena told Reuters in a studio in Cisarua, a town south of Jakarta where she teaches karate to refugees who, like her, hope to resettle in a third country.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, their strict interpretation of Islamic law – sometimes brutally enforced – dictated that women could not work and girls could not go to school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative to venture out of their homes.
With the Taliban back in Kabul, Meena is fearful of what that means for the progress made by her compatriots.