In Spain, Afghan basketball star fears for the country she has left

·2 min read
Afghan national women's wheelchair basketball team captain Nilofar Bayat drinks a coffee in Bilbao

By Elena Rodriguez and Marco Trujillo

BILBAO, Spain (Reuters) - As she started a new life in Spain after escaping the chaos of Kabul, Nilofar Bayat said on Sunday she could not live under the Taliban, who she fears will reverse all the achievements Afghanistan has made over the past 20 years.

The captain of the Afghan women's wheelchair basketball team arrived in Madrid on Friday on a flight from Kabul with her husband Ramesh Naik Zai, 27, and over 100 other refugees.

"I saw at (Kabul) airport how dangerous (the Taliban) are. I saw them shooting and beating. I was crying. My husband told me be strong, I will never leave you alone," Bayat, 28, told Reuters.

"When I saw the Taliban I told (my husband) I want to leave this country because I cannot live with these people."

Bayat was offered a chance to play for Bidaideak Bilbao BSR, a basketball team for wheelchair users in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao, where the couple will live.

When she was two years old, her family’s house in Kabul was hit by a rocket, injuring her spinal cord. Her brother was killed. Bayat's husband was also injured by a mine.

"They (the Taliban) came and changed my life and (my husband's) life. They put an unstoppable pain in our lives. A permanent disability that we have to accept."

Bayat, who was given a place on the plane out of Kabul thanks to efforts by the Spanish government and the Spanish Basketball Federation, fears for the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

"They will destroy all the wishes and achievements of the past 20 years," Bayat said.

She said she feared that the role of women will be diminished under the Taliban.

"Being a woman in the Taliban regime means nothing, you are not part of the society."

As she began her new life, she said of her compatriots in Afghanistan: "We pray for them to be safe. Please don't give up."

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Additional reporting by Elena Rodriguez, Marco Trujillo, Vincent West; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting