On a snowy mountaintop near Kabul, 10 Afghan girls are fighting against prejudice with Shaolin Kungfu.
Rain or snow, these girls from Kabul’s ethnic Hazara community meet every week to practice the martial art of Wushu, choosing to defy harsh weather, poverty and the gender discrimination their country inflicts upon them.
They are led by Sima Azimi, a former gold medallist who learned the sport as a refugee in Iran. Now, she has returned to serve as Afghanistan’s first female Wushu trainer.
“I like to help the girls in my country to improve their skills, so they can be the same as girls in other countries,” she said to Tolo News.
Azimi runs practice sessions either on an open hillside or in a dark, dingy gym. Each session costs $2 to $5, depending on what her students can afford. The real challenge lies in the severe restrictions Afghanistan places on what women can or cannot do. Oftentimes, these girls are harassed and abused on the street as they make their way to practice.
Despite all that, the girls are still fighting back with stretches, handstands and gruelling rounds at the punching-bag. With every kick, Azimi hopes to fight back against what she called the “stupidity” of sexism by winning Wushu glory on the big stage.
Speaking to Reuters, she declared: “My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country.”