Wednesday, October 20

Afghan wheelchair basketball player awaiting evacuation to Spain: “I feel dead while alive”

Sheltered in a Kabul house that is not her own, Latifa Sakhizadeh holds up a handful of medals before the camera and clutches a golden trophy. Her red base says she was once the best player on the Paralympic basketball team in Afghanistan. The woman, dressed in her team’s shirt, shows the cards of her competitions, the silver of Thailand or that gold achieved in Tunisia.

Nilofar Bayat, the captain of the Paralympic basketball team who escaped from Afghanistan to Bilbao: “They have destroyed our country in one day”

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It is her way of showing why she is begging to be evacuated to Spain from Afghanistan, but it is also a way of presenting herself. Because Latifa, he says, is not Latifa without playing basketball.

“Basketball is a part of my life. When I play, I feel free, I feel like I don’t have any disability,” he says in a video call interview with “Since I started playing I knew that people with disabilities could also do great things, not just be at home. But the Taliban have taken everything from me,” explains the athlete. He has not been able to train again since taking Kabul. She has not been entirely Latifa for 50 days.

Latifa Sakhizadeh, 25, is one of the players for the Afghanistan wheelchair basketball team, the same team in which Nilofar Bayat, the Afghan athlete evacuated to Spain on one of the flights after the fall of Kabul, competed. . Both had a pass from the Foreign Ministry, but Sakhizadeh was unable to enter the airport in those last days of crowds and chaos.

While Nilofar Bayat begins to settle in Bilbao, after having received an offer from the Bilbao women’s basketball team Bidaialdeak BSR, Latifa Sakhizadeh continues in Kabul, where she awaits the opening of that other evacuation “route” in which the Spanish Government claims to be working one month after the end of the mission. She is another of the people whose name appeared on the Foreign listings.

No news from Spain

The athlete has not received any news from Spain. Nor does he know who to write to. His Army contact, which he obtained thanks to the help of Spanish journalists during the evacuation week, has not responded to his emails: “I don’t know anything, I don’t know if they will take me into account because I don’t know how I can do it from here. I just hope that someone in Spain listens to me, because I can’t continue here. ”

The player talks about the difficulties she faces as a woman in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, but her voice breaks when she tries to describe the last day she was able to train with her teammates. It was Tuesday, August 10, six days before the fall of Kabul.

Latifa often thinks of that basketball afternoon. There was nothing special about it, but at the same time, it had everything: “Just thinking that this was the last day I played basketball in my life, I collapsed. I can’t even imagine that I won’t be able to train anymore,” explains the athlete in tears.

Since that day, she only talks to her teammates through WhatsApp. As Ahmadullah Wasiq, an official from the Islamist group’s hard core, stated earlier this month, Afghan women will be banned from playing sports under the new Taliban government. “It is not necessary” for them to practice it, said the deputy director of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

They tell her that sport is not “necessary” for them, but for Latifa basketball was the confirmation that she could do what she set out to do, despite barely being able to move her right leg, affected by polio when she was only two years old. “I miss the days when I felt like a human being. When I could go outside without limitations. When I had picnics with my friends, I would train and study English. I don’t ask for more than that. But now I can’t do anything “, she tells with a good friend who helps her with the translation of her words.

“Until we are like this, side by side, it is forbidden. The Taliban do not allow men and women to get together. We are in a house and they do not see us, but everything is a risk,” he laments.

Fear when going to work

Since the arrival of the new regime in Afghanistan, Latifa had not returned to work until last week for fear that the Taliban would tell her something along the way. But the woman decided to take the step and return to her position in the International Committee of the Red Cross, where she works as a prosthetics and orthopedic specialist: “The Taliban for now allow us to work in the organization, but I am very afraid on the way to the office, “he explains.

On one of those trips on the way to her job, the Taliban stopped Latifa because, she says, her dress was not long enough: “It is problematic for me, because of my leg problems. If it is too long, I am worse. “.

Working hours are a kind of liberation for her, but fear of what may happen during the journey prevents her from being calm. In the last month, he has also not been able to return to the University, where he was studying an English course. At home, he says, he does not rest completely either.

“I feel like a prisoner”

“The Taliban took everything from me: going to basketball, going to courses, going to university, going to work quietly … I try to move on, but everything pushes me into darkness. I don’t see a future for myself,” he describes. “Now I feel like a prisoner. My house is like a prison. It is very difficult for me, because in the past I made many efforts, but now 20 years of my life are worth nothing. I don’t even feel that now I am human, because Taliban do not treat us as human beings. ”

Added to the risks associated with being a working woman, who played for the women’s basketball team for years, is her ethnicity. Latifa is Hazara, a minority historically persecuted by the Taliban. “They see us as enemies. In the past they murdered hazara in schools and hospitals. They attacked in our religious ceremonies. Now they say they are very good, that they won’t do anything to us, but we don’t trust ourselves.”

Six months ago, his brother was kidnapped by the extremists: “My brother wanted to flee to Iran, in the face of the Taliban advance, but on the way they kidnapped him. They wanted to kill him. They called my brother and asked him for money in exchange for his release. When my father found out, he had a heart attack and passed away. ”

He is aware of the risk, but Latifa insists on publishing his real name and his photograph without pixelation. “All I want is to be evacuated from Afghanistan. I know I am in danger, but I am not afraid of dying because I have already lost everything. I know I am alive, but inside I am dead.”

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