Afghan wheelchair basketball captain hopes peace gives team a shot at Paralympics

By Hameed Farzad KABUL (Reuters) - One of thousands of Afghans badly injured during years of conflict, Nilofar Bayat hopes for peace so that her wheelchair basketball team can take part in the Paralympics but fears a return to power by the Taliban could quash her dreams. Bayat, now 26, suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of two when a rocket hit her house, killing her brother. Her injury limited her ability to run or jump but has not deterred her from studying, getting a job and pursuing her love of basketball

Reuters February 26, 2020 07:14:21 IST
Afghan wheelchair basketball captain hopes peace gives team a shot at Paralympics

Afghan wheelchair basketball captain hopes peace gives team a shot at Paralympics

By Hameed Farzad

KABUL (Reuters) - One of thousands of Afghans badly injured during years of conflict, Nilofar Bayat hopes for peace so that her wheelchair basketball team can take part in the Paralympics but fears a return to power by the Taliban could quash her dreams.

Bayat, now 26, suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of two when a rocket hit her house, killing her brother. Her injury limited her ability to run or jump but has not deterred her from studying, getting a job and pursuing her love of basketball.

"I hope Afghanistan's situation gets better, so I can train with a relaxed mind, doing my work, and having a better life," Bayat said following a practice match with her teammates at a gymnasium in Kabul. 

"I hope to see the development of my team... I hope we can go to the next Paralympics," said Bayat, a law school graduate who now works as a data entry operator.

She began playing basketball with a team organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) eight years ago.

Life is particularly difficult for people with physical disabilities in Afghanistan, where they face social stigma as well as inaccessible streets and buildings, and a lack of rehabilitation and health facilities. The ICRC says up to 1.5 million people are disabled in the country, many due to 18 years of war.

"It is tough for a woman, especially if she has a disability, to live in Afghanistan. People see disability as a defect for women... which hurts disabled girls a lot," Bayat said.

"TERRIBLE MEMORY"

Bayat said taking up wheelchair basketball had helped build up her confidence. Her team has taken part in international competitions in Indonesia and Thailand, winning three medals in the process.

But she expressed concern about a possible return to power by the hardline Islamist Taliban, who banned women from education, work or leaving the house without a male relative during their 1996-2001 rule.

The United States and the Taliban are due to sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a planned week-long "reduction in violence" in Afghanistan, stirring fresh hopes for an end to the protracted conflict.

"I have a terrible memory of the Taliban era because I became disabled during the Taliban era, an event that completely changed my life, and I always think about what I will do in the future if something stops my basketball and activities," said Bayat.

"That is one of the biggest concerns for me and the girls here," she said.

(Reporting by Hameed Farzad, Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Gareth Jones)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.