When you think of Kabul, it’s hard not to think of a city still reeling from a war, which has spanned over a decade, but now a successful team of female boxers trains inside the city’s Olympic stadium to represent Afghanistan on the national stage.
The 2011 National Film Board documentary, The Boxing Girls of Kabul, opens with a spine-tingling image of the Taliban shooting a burqa-clad woman in the very stadium the boxing team now trains at. During the Taliban’s reign, the stadium was notorious for hosting executions.
It’s clear that Ariel Nasr’s film is about much more than boxing, it’s about the struggles of girls in Kabul and the future of Afghanistan.
This documentary follows a group of three female boxers competing for Afghanistan. One of the boxers, 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi, is set to compete at the 2012 Olympics in London.
But getting to the Olympics is no easy task, as the girls barely have any equipment to train and only step into the ring for their first time at a national competition in Vietnam.
In addition to fighting for medals, the girls worry about fighting for their rights in a country where women are still oppressed, and participation in sports is seen as out of the norm.
“They will understand afterwards, when a girl has become a champion, champion of the whole world, an Afghan girl. Then they will understand the value of girls,” one of the boxers explained.
The Boxing Girls of Kabul is much more than a feel-good sports story. It’s a bittersweet portrait of three adolescent girls overcoming political, financial and physical challenges to prove that they are just as capable as men.
The strongest part of The Boxing Girls in Kabul is how well it conveys the complex attitudes towards women’s rights in Afghanistan.
The boxing girls come from progressive families. They are allowed to participate in sports, travel and go to school. But this is not usually the case since there is still widespread violence and oppression of women in Afghanistan.