AfghanistanSpecial ReportsWomen & Human Rights

Pain of Migrant Athletes; “If I have permission to participate in sports, I will return”

By Karima Moradi

Bayan News – Masouma Hussaini, an Afghan athlete who immigrated to Iran a year ago, says that if the conditions for sports training are provided for girls, she will return to her country.

With the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan after August 15, 2021, severe restrictions were imposed on the social freedoms of women and girls in the country, including the prohibition of education and sports.

Due to these ongoing limitations, a significant number of women and girls have resorted to migration over the past two years and sought refuge in Iran and Pakistan.

Masouma Hussaini is one of the female athletes who was a member of the national karate team for several years and had participated in several domestic competitions, achieving notable accomplishments.

She told Bayan News her migration story in 2023, which she describes as a year filled with anxiety because she expected that by coming to Iran, she would be able to continue her sports activities. However, that did not materialize.

According to Masouma, the past year was full of hardship for Afghan immigrants in Iran. The current conditions for those who have entered through smuggling routes have become extremely difficult, and they can barely make ends meet. “I have seen a compatriot here (in Iran) who had an important role in the previous government, but due to the compulsion, she became a migrant and now works in a poultry farm and struggles to make a living.”

This athlete describes her one-year life in Iran as a painful experience. She was a member of the national team and freely participated in every domestic competition, but these opportunities were taken away from her. She was forced to migrate to Iran in search of a better life that would allow her to continue her sports activities and education.

However, Masouma is not familiar with social life in Iran, as she finds it difficult to pursue her education and cannot move from one place to another due to not having a residence permit document.

Masouma Hussaini, the athlete

She further stated that she has resorted to labor-intensive jobs with low wages to sustain her daily life as a migrant. This opportunity is available to those who have entered Iran legally, as the presence of those who are undocumented has made their living conditions extremely difficult, and they are not given employment opportunities in many places.

Nevertheless, over the past two years, a significant number of Afghan families have involuntarily resorted to migration due to economic problems and social restrictions on their children’s education.

In addition, the Iranian government has increased the number of deportations of undocumented migrants in recent months and has returned approximately 60,000 migrants to Afghanistan in the past month alone.

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