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Afghanistan's first female Olympic boxer

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    Afghanistan's first female Olympic boxer

    Is the development of Olympics sports programs a sign of an evolving nation?

    Wait...Iraq had Olympic teams too, and they were tortured when they lost.

    Still...another step forward for women's rights in the Middle East

    Afghanistan's first female Olympic boxer eyes London dream

    Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An arena where the Taliban used to execute women provides a chilling and incongruous setting for one teen girl's unlikely Olympic dream.

    But the dusty floors, broken mirrors, and poorly-lit hallways inside Kabul's Ghazni stadium have been the training base for 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi.

    Dressed in a track suit, red lace up boots and a blue bandana, she is on course to become Afghanistan's first female Olympic boxer and only the third Afghan sportswoman to compete at an Olympic Games.

    "The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin," she told CNN during a break from training.

    "Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!"
    She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.

    Well, Wabbit, there's a ton of stuff being said in the press about women in the Middle East in competitve sports. Here's a general article about Iran's Female Athletes:

    a sample quote:

    An interesting Iranian film, Salam Rugby (2010), documents Hashemi's harassment and shows an attack against her in one of its final scenes. (You can watch a YouTube clip in Persian of the the incident here.) As its name implies, Salam Rugby follows the growth of women's rugby teams in Iran. Rugby is a controversial sport for women in many countries because it challenges traditional ideas about women's physical capabilities, mental toughness, and behavioral norms. In Iran, it clearly pushes the boundaries too far for the mullahs, and they do their best to thwart the sport. One of the female players in the film says that all the hurdles put in front of them are just another form of "mental torture." One coach was removed from his position after being threatened with legal action and charges of prostitution were he to come within 10 meters of his female players. Another team was only able to play two competitive matches over seven years.
    Perhaps more on topic is the subject of (and I apologize if this derails your thread -- I swear that's not my intention) Iranian ninja women. Certainly you remember them?

    Watching the video above, if you look past the tiger-striped costumes and over-the-top production, you can glimpse the self-empowerment of these women in a society that seeks to rob them of power, and perhaps begin to understand why ninjutsu, and athletics in general, have become so popular with Iranian women.

    The laws and official practices of Iran place enormous restrictions on its women. They are considered inferior to men in almost all legal matters, especially family laws such as marriage or child custody, and their testimony is officially equal to half of a man's. Clothing restrictions and fierce segregation laws marginalize women in the public sector, making participation in society arduous and painful. Those who try anyway are often singled out for harassment and punishment.

    But the Iranian regime's 33-year quest to make Iranian women weak and helpless, to force them into child-like subservience, has failed. Though we in the West often perceive them this way because the hijab and the chador are all we see on the surface, women in Iran are stronger collectively and more assertive individually than the Islamic Republic would have us believe. After all, its laws and restrictions would not be necessary if Iranian women were as powerless as the religious leaders hoped. It is precisely because Iranian women do wield power in their society and homes that the country's reactionary leaders feel compelled to imbalance the playing field, to pass laws taking that dignity and influence away. And one of the places where their failure becomes clear is in the surprisingly vibrant arena of women's sports.

    The first two Muslim women to summit Mount Everest, in 2005, were both Iranian; a dentist and graphic designer whose expedition had suffered unusually bad conditions and serious injuries. In 2004, a group of Iranian women started a rugby league that, by 2006, had 1,000 members. "Some of my male colleagues were skeptical but we proved them wrong," one of the earliest players said in a documentary about the harassment and intimidation her team endured. In 2007, when Iranian women began qualifying for the Olympics, an official publicly warned, "severe punishment will be meted out to those who do not follow Islamic rules during sporting competitions." Only three made it to Beijing; Sara Khoshjamal Fekri, the first-ever Iranian women to qualify in taekwondo, rose to the quarter-finals. International women's competitions in wushu, a Chinese form of exhibition martial arts, routinely see Iranian champions. Though many women play soccer, often competitively, the national women's team is held back by under-funding, poor equipment, and gender restrictions that forbid male coaches or trainers.
    While we here in the US might snicker at the idea of "ninjutsu" [sic] training as being "empowering," it is, within at least this Muslim culture, clearly making women think differently about themselves, and forcing others to think differently about them too.

    More pics here:

    I'll note, as an aside, that all this snickering isn't helping anyone. See:

    Iranian state-run outlet PressTV says that several of those ninjas are suing Reuters for defamation. The Reuters story, according to PressTV, "accused [the women] of being assassins" whom the state is training "to kill any possible foreign invaders." There's no reason to think that these female athletes are actually state-run killers.
    In the words of the article:
    They're not [assassins], and the media fight over the mischaracterization reveals -- and maybe worsens -- how the West and Iran misunderstand one another.



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