Robi Jalali once ran sporting a hijab to break taboos, now oversees women's sporting efforts in Afghanistan
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Feb 8: From her childhood till the day she ran at an intertiol event wearing the hijab, it has been a long journey for Robi Jalali to overcome the taboo against women in sports in her country. But today, the two-time Olympic sprinter and vice president of tiol Olympic Committee, Afghanistan, is glad that women in her country are defying its patriarchal order and the Taliban diktat, taking to games like basketball, volleyball and tennis, besides athletics.
"There were a lot of problems for women in Afghanistan. The ultra-conservatives denied women's access to fields like sports, politics and even the media. But I am happy that things are changing now. But still a lot needs to be done," the athlete who had participated in some 30 intertiol events said.
In a conversation with The Sentinel, Robi recalled the days when she had participated in the first intertiol event.
"Many didn't want women to participate in sports. They wanted us to stay indoors. Even the local people did not support me. They said it is not allowed… not good. But I used to ask them if it was forbidden in Islam. They did not have any answers to that," the 29-year-old said.
Robi was just 17 when she had taken part in the women's 100 m sprint at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She ran in "a T-shirt and long green track pants" rather than more aerodymic competition clothing.
She attracted intertiol attention for running while wearing the hijab, the traditiol Muslim woman's head covering and because she was one of the first two women ever to represent Afghanistan at the Olympic Games.
Robi was instrumental in motivating Afghan women to take to sports.
"We visited families individually and even schools to motivate the girls. We are glad that the environment is changing. We have basketball, volleyball and tennis teams now. It's good to be a part of intertiol events like this. I hope peace will come to Afghanistan one day and women can freely participate in all activities like men," she said.
Robi also praised the liaison officers - Beauty and Trish - provided to her by the SAG organizing committee, saying they have been "very nice" and "supporting".
The Olympian also acknowledged India for supporting her country as a good friend. "I hope the ties between the two countries deepen further," she added.
There are around 40 women members in the 214-member Afghanistan contingent in the 2016 SAG.