From Serbia, Afghan Boxers Seek Refuge, Careers in West | World News

By JOVANA GEC, Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — They practiced in secret and struggled to get to a world match in Europe. Now, members of the Afghan nationwide boxing group are in search of refuge in the West, hoping to proceed each their careers and their lives with out hazard or concern.

The Afghan boxers, their coach and a high boxing federation official remained in Serbia after the AIBA World Boxing Championships completed in early November, saying they might face retribution from the Taliban in the event that they returned dwelling.

“When the Taliban regime got here to Afghanistan, every thing grew to become modified,” Waheedullah Hameedi, the secretary basic of Afghanistan’s boxing federation, mentioned. “It was difficult to come for a world championship during the new regime, the new government.”


The group has contacted a number of international embassies about securing humanitarian visas and asylum safety. Some European Union nations have turned them down, however the 11-member group has not given up hope of discovering a secure haven.

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Tens of hundreds of Afghans, together with athletes, have fled the nation since troops from the United States and different international nations pulled out in August and the Taliban took over. Hameedi mentioned the Taliban don’t approve of boxing, and group members stand little probability of pursuing their careers freely in Afghanistan.

“As you know, the situation in Afghanistan is very tough, very bad,” he mentioned, talking in English. “They (Taliban) didn’t allow in first days to continue the boxing and open the gym. Everyone was afraid to go anywhere for boxing or for anything else.”


Hameedi’s father, a earlier secretary basic of the Afghan Boxing Federation, was gunned down in 2019 by unknown assailants. After the nationwide group participated in the Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai in May, Hameedi was decided to take his boxers to Serbia for the world championships in late October.

Boxing was banned in Afghanistan throughout the Taliban’s earlier rule in 1996-2001. While its leaders have sought to painting themselves as extra tolerant this time round, Hameedi insisted the officers and boxers have confronted threats and feared for his or her security.

“Boxing is ‘haram’ for them (Taliban,) something in Islam that is illegal for them,” he mentioned.

Ahead of the journey to Serbia, the boxers skilled at hidden areas and tried to remain below the radar, hiding their plan to compete in the worldwide match, Hameedi mentioned. They managed to get visas to go to Iran, and as soon as in Tehran they utilized for visas on the Serbian Embassy earlier than speeding on to Belgrade, he mentioned.

The 11 Afghan boxers competed in Serbia as a part of a 14-member “fair chance” group sponsored by the International Boxing Association for refugees and different athletes who needed to flee their international locations, mentioned Hameedi.

The group’s Serbian visas have since expired. Hameedi mentioned pals and family members warned them to not return to Afghanistan. While hundreds of migrants and refugees arrive in Serbia, most achieve this planning to proceed on to international locations in Western Europe the place it’s simpler to seek out jobs and make a dwelling.

‘We hope we are going to obtain visas as quickly as attainable so there is no such thing as a drawback in Serbia,” Hameedi mentioned.” We can depart simply to some secure nation and their future might be granted.”

Hameedi mentioned he, the coach and the 9 boxers who nonetheless are with them in Serbia don’t need to cross borders illegally to succeed in Western Europe, however neither have they utilized for asylum in the Balkan nation.

Attorney Marko Stambuk, who works with the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, mentioned the Afghan boxers contacted the group and have been knowledgeable about their choices for in search of asylum in Serbia.

Stambuk acknowledged that the boxers concern the return to Afghanistan due to the Taliban insurance policies and a typically risky state of affairs. They are “conscious of their rights and obligations (in Serbia), and now they’re pondering of what to do subsequent,” he mentioned.

Amid the uncertainty, the boxers have continued coaching in native gyms. Hasibullah Malikzadah, 20, mentioned he’s afraid to return to Afghanistan and desires to proceed boxing someplace else.

“I want to be good champion,” and a task mannequin for youngsters world wide, he mentioned after a apply session. “I really want this. I really have a good dream.”

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