If you missed recent headlines about the first Afghan woman to complete the 70.3 Ironman Championship in Utah in the United States on October 28, we’re here to tell you - Zeinab made history. And it’s no surprise that getting there was far from straightforward.
Afghanistan is a country where people have been suffering for decades as a result of war and terror and women have been repressed and denied their rights in many areas of life. Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 made matters much worse for women who are now battling for their right to education and inclusion in public life. In fact, Taliban officials told reporters in 2021 that women’s sports was neither appropriate nor necessary. Afghan women wouldn’t be allowed to play “the kind of sports where they get exposed”.
Yet, women like Zeinab have continued to resist and grab every opportunity to break the shackles of fundamentalism. She was born as an Afghan refugee in Iran and returned to her homeland with her family at the age of nine. Her father was determined to send his daughters to school and university. Zeinab has completed a marathon and an ultra-marathon, all while training with many many challenges in Afghanistan. She then found the non-profit She Can Tri, which led her to her first 70.3 Ironman in Dubai and then the championship in the US.
Now a Fullbright scholar completing her Masters in social entrepreneurship at the Colorado State University College of Business, Zeinab connected with us from her campus to share what the win meant for her and how it represents more than a personal achievement. She tells us about her escape from Afghanistan in August 2021 and how she hopes her representation and
visibility through sports will bring the spotlight back onto the plight of women in Afghanistan and her people who had to seek asylum in other countries.
To know more about She Can Tri, head to shecantri.org
Our wider support team for this episode includes Editor JJ Thompson and our Artwork is by the talented Alexandra Hickey of Studio Theodore.
We were at a loss of words at the end of this chat and left with so much respect for Zeinab’s resolve. We hope this conversation provides food for thought to you too!
Dawn & Afshan