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Danish Nadia Nadim reflects on her flight from the Taliban

All nadia nadim I needed was an opportunity. An opportunity for education, an opportunity to study medicine, an opportunity to play soccer.

She would not have stood a chance if she had stayed in Afghanistan, which was ruled by the Taliban when she fled with her mother and four sisters.

Using forged passports, they escaped to Pakistan, flew to Italy, and then boarded a cargo truck that they were told would take them to England. They made it as far as Denmark, where they ended up in a refugee camp.

The detour turned out to be one of the best things that happened to Nadim, then 12 years old, because he not only discovered football in Denmark, but also started a new life there.

“When I was young in Afghanistan, I wasn’t really a part of anything,” said Nadim, who leads Racing Louisville in scoring with six goals in 11 games. Louisville plays Angel City on Sunday in the Los Angeles team’s final regular-season home game, one that Angel City must win to keep its playoff hopes alive. But Nadim may not be available to play. After being injured in the 26th minute of Wednesday’s loss to Portland, her availability on Sunday is uncertain.

“I wasn’t allowed to play the game,” he said of life in Afghanistan. “I wasn’t allowed to be part of the education system. But I think once I got out of it, it doesn’t matter if it was in Denmark, England, [the] In the US, he would have managed to reach the heights he wanted. Once the access is there, I know I will kill him.”

That access allowed Nadim to become the sixth top scorer in the history of the Danish national team. He won a league title in France, scored the first goal in a European Championship, graduated in medicine and learned to speak eight languages. In 2018, Forbes voted her one of the 20 most powerful women in international sports.

Denmark’s Nadia Nadim, left, reacts at the end of a loss to Spain at Women’s Euro 2022 in July.

(Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

None of that would… could have — would have happened if Nadim had stayed in Afghanistan, which is why he greeted the Taliban’s return to power last year with sadness and horror.

“Devastating,” he said. “I thought we were on the right path to progress and a better future for girls. We gave the key back to some idiots who have a mindset that doesn’t belong in this century.”

According to the United Nations, human rights violations against women and girls have increased since the United States left and fundamentalists regained control of Afghanistan. Thirteen months ago, 3.5 million women and girls were enrolled in school and 21% of the workforce were women. More than a quarter of the country’s legislators were women.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard for me to understand how unfair it is.”

— Nadia Nadim, on the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime

Under the Taliban, women have been excluded from public life. There are no female cabinet ministers in the new government and girls have been banned from attending school beyond the sixth grade and from working outside the home, where women must stay except in cases of necessity.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Nadim said. “It’s hard for me to understand how unfair it is.”

Nadim, 34, has lived outside Afghanistan almost twice as long as he lived there. That time and distance have given him a rare perspective. While the Taliban have enforced a strict form of misogyny, Nadim’s family is proof that any woman, given the chance, can achieve remarkable things.

Shanice van de Sanden from the Netherlands, left, hugs Nadia Nadim from Denmark.

Shanice van de Sanden of the Netherlands, left, hugs Nadia Nadim of Denmark after a match at Women’s Euro 2017

(Patrick Post/Associated Press)

“There are so many girls who don’t have that access just because they were born in a place where people have a different view of how a woman’s life should be lived.”

— Nadia Nadim

Nadim’s mother, Hamida, had the courage and intelligence to smuggle her daughters out of Afghanistan after the Taliban killed her husband, a general in the national army. Ella’s younger sister Diana is a seven-time Danish boxing champion and Ella’s aunt Aryana Sayeed is among the most popular Afghan singers in the world, something she could never have become had she not fled to her homeland. her last summer. Later, the Taliban moved to ban most forms of music.

Yet while Afghanistan may offer the most striking example of women being denied equal rights, Nadim said it happens everywhere.

“Having access and equal opportunities is the key for female athletes, female scientists,” she said. “There are so many girls who don’t have that access just because they were born in a place where people have a different view of how a woman’s life should be lived.”

Denmark’s Nadia Nadim takes part in a Women’s Euro 2022 match against Finland in July.

(Rui Vieira/Associated Press)

Football, the most global of games, has given Nadim a platform, and his ability to speak multiple languages ​​has given him the ability to address those injustices, leading UNESCO, in 2019, to name her world champion for girls and women. education. And when her playing days are over, a day that is nowhere near, she says, her skill as a surgeon will give her the ability to make even more lasting change in people’s lives, something she said she could do with the humanitarian group. Doctors. Without Borders.

What Nadim is not interested in is politics. The Taliban have embittered her with that idea.

“I am too direct to be successful in politics,” she said. “But I would love to be in places where decisions are made.”

All you need is a chance.


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