Fleeing Kabul: Afghan wheelchair basketball captain’s journey to Spain

Nilofar Bayat, the captain of Afghanistan’s women’s wheelchair basketball team, and her husband say they are worried about their families back home after they both arrived in Spain on Friday (August 20).

“There is no way for me, there is no future for me or for my husband to stay here,” Nilofar said in a recent video recorded by her in Kabul before she fled to the airport where she stayed for two days, braving difficult conditions, beating and gunshots.

“We lost the luggage, everything we had, but fortunately we found the way to go to the military gate, the army of Spain helped us and they took us to Dubai, then we came to Madrid,” Bayat, 28, told Reuters as she stood next to her husband Ramesh Naik Zai, 27, in a leafy street in Bilbao, northern Spain.

At the age of 2, Nilofar’s family’s house in Kabul was hit by a rocket, injuring her spinal chord. Her brother was killed. Bayat’s husband was also injured by a mine.

Despite the adversity Nilofar has faced throughout her life, she describes the days spent at Kabul airport and some of the worst she has experienced.

Nilofar, who arrived in the Torrejon de Ardoz air base with 100 other refugees before heading to Bilbao, said she could not live under the Taliban which she fears will reverse all the achievements the country has made during the past 20 years.

She has been offered a chance to play for Bidaideak Bilbao BSR, a wheelchair basketball team in the northern Spanish city where the couple will live.

Nilofar says she fears for the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

“Every time we sit together we just speak about family, about how can we help them, how can we make feel them safe,” Nilofar said.

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