In 2009, a young Afghan woman named Samira Asghari made history by becoming one of the youngest members of the International Olympic Committee. Her remarkable journey began when she joined the women’s basketball team at Rabea Balkhi High School during her 9th-grade studies. By 2010, she had become a member of the Afghan national youth basketball team.
Despite the challenging circumstances in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Samira fearlessly pursued her passion for sports, demonstrating unwavering dedication and love for the game. Her journey, marked by resilience, reflects the profound influence of her parents, siblings, and other role models who contributed to her success. From her early years, sports provided her with joy and serenity, gradually shaping her into a professional athlete.
Samira’s highest priorities are the growth and development of Afghanistan, and she firmly believes that education is the key to progress and prosperity for the country’s youth. In her eyes, education and sports go hand in hand, driving her remarkable accomplishments in the world of athletics.
She emphasizes the pivotal role education played in her journey: “Through this education, I reached sports. Perhaps if there was no education, there would be no successful Samira now.”
As a female sports leader, Samira encountered challenges that are sadly all too common for women in her role. She faced gender discrimination, cultural barriers, and economic hurdles in her society. However, she refused to be deterred. With patience, commitment, and unwavering determination, she continued to pursue her goals, aiming to serve as a role model for Afghan women and girls.
She describes the initial resistance she faced within her community: “For my people and my tribe, I was a female athlete and a taboo-breaker. Initially, they did not accept me and were not in favor of my involvement in this field, and many still hold these beliefs. They thought I had overstepped my boundaries. I had no support among them, and this pressure made me choose sports over their approval. It was unacceptable for me to shift my focus from sports to their approval.”
Samira gradually became involved in various national sports teams, playing a pivotal role in advancing women’s sports in Afghanistan. As a sports expert and manager, she contributed to the development and management of the Olympic movement in Afghanistan, sharing her experiences to help Afghan athletes excel.
Overcoming the legacy of the early days of the first Taliban regime in Afghanistan was a significant challenge for Samira. She acknowledges the pivotal role played by Rohullah Nikpai, who won Afghanistan’s first Olympic medal, in introducing the Olympic Games and its five rings to the people, as well as to the sports community and government agencies. She always aimed to set an example, and her appointment as the national team’s captain by her team members was a testament to her exceptional qualities and skills in sports.
She reflects on the value of being selected as a team captain by her rivals: “Being selected by your rivals to serve as their team captain, even if it is a minor issue, is valuable.”
From her perspective, there was a significant lack of management skills for women involved in physical education committees during the early days of her journey. However, Samira, armed with international language proficiency and sports management skills, broke barriers for women in the administrative sector of Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee. Over the course of 11 years, she rose to a leadership position, making decisions that positively impacted women’s participation in team sports at the international level. She became a strong advocate for increased involvement of Afghan women in sports administration and management roles.
She proudly reflects on their achievements in team sports: “We sent team sports to foreign countries, and no one agreed, thinking that teamwok skills were weak. All their focus and investment were on individual sports. But we succeeded and showed that it is possible.”
Despite the challenging conditions in Afghanistan, Samira remains steadfast in her commitment to her passion, firmly believing that effort is the best solution to overcome challenges. She holds the view that with the right mindset, challenges can be transformed into opportunities, and time can be wisely invested in online education and knowledge sharing, especially among women. As a representative of the generation that endured the 20-year war, she emphasizes the importance of experts and elites not losing hope and actively working to educate and empower future generations.
She expresses her unwavering optimism: “I am not hopeless because they cannot wipe us out, Afghanistan and its youth are eternal. Our generation is still alive and growing day by day.”