There are female Afghan success stories, yet most women in Afghanistan remain second-class citizens, cloaked from head-to-toe in blue burqas, abused or hidden in their homes.
Rahimi, a determined 17-year-old student, wants to become the new face of Afghan women, gaining honour and dignity for herself and other women in her war-torn country and improving their image worldwide.
She will get her chance in London, where women’s boxing makes its Olympic debut.
“When we participate in the outside competitions, there is pressure on us,’’ Rahimi said while training in a makeshift gym in the Afghan capital. “But I will try to show that an Afghan girl can enter the ring and achieve a position for Afghanistan.’’
In line with conservative norms for women in Afghanistan, Rahimi is expecting to wear black tights under her boxing gear at the Olympics to cover her knees. She trains for hours three days a week, punching heavy bags and sparring with her teammates and trainers.
They throw punches on faded pink and green mats covering a concrete floor of a room in an Afghan sports stadium where the hardline Taliban regime used to stage public executions. After the Taliban banned women from participating in sporting events, the International Olympic Committee suspended Afghanistan from the games. The Taliban were toppled in 2001 and the suspension was lifted the following year. Afghanistan sent female athletes, for the first time in its history, to the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Rahimi says she is following the footsteps of Robina Muqimyar, the female Afghan runner who competed in Athens.