CAPTAINS of Afghanistan’s national wheelchair basketball women’s and men’s teams have landed at the military airport of Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid region) to start a new life.
Nilofar Bayat, 28, and her husband Ramish were flown to safety in Spain after talking to reporter Antonio Pampliega, a Spanish warzone correspondent, shortly before the Asian country’s crisis started.
“The Taliban are going to enter Kabul. We’re really scared. My life is over, Antonio,” Nilofar wrote.
“I can’t stay here.”
The list of rules applying to women under the new régime is very similar to that of 20 years ago – they are not allowed to work, pursue any form of education from earliest school to post-graduate either in person or via correspondence, they are not permitted to leave the house without a male chaperone who must be either their husband or a family member, nor talk to any other males whilst out; they are required to wear a full burqa and their hands and feet must be covered, and whilst indoors, must stay away from windows so they cannot be seen from the street.
No females may be shown on TV, film or in any of the media – in fact, even men are not allowed to listen to music, and the Taliban dictates their haircuts and makes it a legal requirement to wear a beard.
Women who break any of these rules, or who are accused of adultery or of relations outside marriage – with or without proof – will be publicly stoned.
Nilofar has been disabled since she was 20, after a missile launched by the Taliban left her with permanent injuries, but in the eight years that followed, she trained and qualified as a lawyer, learnt to play wheelchair basketball and became national team captain.
It was through the sport that she met her husband – Ramish is also in a wheelchair and captain of the men’s national team.
Since it became known that the Taliban was back, Nilofar has been making frantic calls to authorities to find out how she and Ramish could get out of the country.
Hearing of her plight, Pampliega started to pull strings and make contacts with various organisations, including the National Sports Council (CSD), the Spanish Basketball Federation, and the ministry of foreign affairs.
It was Antonio Pampliega himself who broke the news to the world that the couple had made it to the airbase in Kaia, just outside Kabul, and had boarded a Spanish Armed Forces plane along with other evacuees bound for Madrid.
Once they had taken off and were out of reach of the Taliban, the thrilled couple took a selfie and sent it to Pampliega, who tweeted it with the caption: “The most beautiful photo in the world – Nilofar and Ramish inside the plane.”
Thanking all those who had made it possible, Antonio wrote: “I can’t stop crying with happiness.”
Nilofar had also sent Antonio a photo of the crowded airport before they boarded, saying the next flight to leave was for Canada and that she and Ramish were trying to find the Spanish ambassador.
Pampliega tweeted the picture and tagged the embassy, asking them to make contact.
Huge crowds were packed into the airport at the time, as thousands of Afghans attempt to flee the country while they still can.
Two women’s wheelchair basketball teams in Spain have already offered the position of captain to Nilofar, which is a salaried post.
They are based at complete opposite ends of the country – one is Minusval Melilla, in the city of the same name directly due south of the province of Almería on the northern African coast, and the other is Bidaideak Bilbao BSR, in the Basque Country.
The latter is currently league champion, and has made a formal request to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation and to the Spanish Basketball Federation for Nilofar and her husband to be able to live in the northern port city and to play for the women’s and men’s teams from the start of next season.
Yesterday (Saturday) evening, it was confirmed that the couple had accepted the offer from Bilbao, and both will start with their respective teams there in time for next season.
Bidaideak Bilbao BSR is now dealing with the paperwork so it can make the offer official.