Danish Nadia Nadim reflects on her escape from the Taliban

Garlic Nadia Nadim it needed a chance. A chance to study, a chance to study medicine, a chance to play football.

She wouldn’t have stood a chance if she had stayed afghanistanwhich was ruled by the taliban when she fled with her mother and four sisters.

With fake passports, they fled to Pakistan, flew to Italy, then boarded a cargo truck which they were told would take them to England. They went as far as Denmark, where they ended up in a refugee camp.

The detour turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to the then 12-year-old Nadim, as she not only discovered football in Denmark, but also started a new life there.

“When I was young in Afghanistan, I really wasn’t a part of anything,” said Nadim, who is Racing Louisville’s leading scorer with six goals in 11 games. Louisville faces Angel City on Sunday in Los Angeles’ final home game of the regular season, an Angel City must win to keep their playoff hopes alive. But Nadim might not be available for that. After coming off in the 26th minute of Wednesday’s loss to Portland with an injury, her availability on Sunday is in doubt.

“I was not allowed to play the game,” she said of life in Afghanistan. “I was not allowed to be part of the education system. But I think once I got out of it, it didn’t matter if it was Denmark, England, [the] In the United States, I would have managed to reach the heights I wanted. Once the access is there, I know I’m going to kill it.

This access allowed Nadim to become the sixth highest goalscorer in the history of the Danish national team. She won a French league title, scored the first goal in a European championship, earned a medical degree and learned to speak eight languages. In 2018, Forbes named her one of the 20 most powerful women in international sport.

Denmark's Nadia Nadim, left, reacts at the end of a loss to Spain at Women's Euro 2022 in July.

Denmark’s Nadia Nadim, left, reacts at the end of a loss to Spain at Women’s Euro 2022 in July.

(Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

None of this would have – could have – happened if Nadim had stayed in Afghanistan, which is why she greeted the return to power of the Taliban last year with sadness and horror.

“Devastating,” she says. “I thought we were on the right path to progress and a better future for girls. We gave the key back to idiots who have a mindset that doesn’t belong in this century.

According to the United Nations, violations of the human rights of women and girls have increased since the United States left and fundamentalists regained control of Afghanistan. Thirteen months ago, 3.5 million women and girls were in school and 21% of the working population were women. More than a quarter of the country’s legislators were women.

“It’s heartbreaking. I find it hard to understand how unfair it is.”

— Nadia Nadim, on the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime

Under the Taliban, women were systematically excluded from public life. There are no female ministers in the new government and girls have been banned from going to school beyond grade six and from working outside the home, where women must stay except if necessary.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Nadim said. “I find it hard to understand how unfair that is.”

Nadim, 34, has lived outside Afghanistan almost twice as long as she has lived there. This time and this distance gave him a rare perspective. While the Taliban has imposed a strict form of misogyny, Nadim’s family is proof that any woman, given the chance, can achieve remarkable things.

Shanice van de Sanden of the Netherlands, left, hugs Denmark's Nadia Nadim.

Shanice van de Sanden of the Netherlands, left, hugs Nadia Nadim of Denmark after a match at the Women’s Euro 2017

(Patrick Post/Associated Press)

“There are so many girls who don’t have that access just because they were born in a place where people have a different view of how a woman’s life should be lived.”

—Nadia Nadim

Nadim’s mother, Hamida, had the courage and intelligence to smuggle her daughters out of Afghanistan after her husband, a general in the national army, was killed by the Taliban. Her younger sister Diana is a seven-time Danish boxing champion and her aunt Aryana Sayeed is one of the world’s most popular Afghan singers – something she could never have become if she hadn’t fled to her homeland. last summer. The Taliban then decided to ban most forms of music.

Yet while Afghanistan may offer the starkest example of women being denied equal rights, Nadim said it happens everywhere.

“Having access and equal opportunity is key for female athletes, female scientists,” she said. “There are so many girls who don’t have that access just because they were born in a place where people have a different view of how a woman’s life should be lived.”

Denmark's Nadia Nadim appears to be in a Women's Euro 2022 game against Finland in July.

Denmark’s Nadia Nadim appears to be in a Women’s Euro 2022 game against Finland in July.

(Rui Vieira/Associated Press)

Football, the most global game, gave Nadim a platform, and her ability to speak multiple languages ​​gave her the ability to address these injustices, leading UNESCO, in 2019, to name her world champion for girls and women. education. And when her playing days are over – a day that is not yet near, she says – her skills as a surgeon will give her the ability to make even more lasting changes in people’s lives, which she said she could continue with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

What doesn’t interest Nadim is politics. The Taliban embittered her on this idea.

“I’m too simple to be successful in politics,” she said. “But I would like to be where the decisions are made.”

All she needs is a chance.