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Afghanistan-born champion holds hope for refugees stranded in Indonesia through karate

Jakarta: Mina Asadi faced all odds to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional karate athlete.

She was 13 years old and living in a refugee camp in Pakistan when she first decided to learn martial arts. After fleeing violence in Afghanistan with his family, Assadi was inspired to break down gender barriers in sports.

“When I saw the boys play the game freely, I asked myself: ‘Why couldn’t I do that? Assadi told Arab News in an interview. “It inspired me to start karate professionally.”

Asadi’s passion for karate has guided her life journey more than a decade later in Sisarua, a West Java town south of Jakarta, where she now teaches the art to fellow refugees.

Assadi returned to Afghanistan in 2011 but was forced to leave the country again due to violence and war. She arrived in Indonesia in 2015, where she has lived for years amid growing uncertainties about her future.

“In Indonesia, refugees live without even the most basic human rights. We consider ourselves forgotten,” Asadi said. “We all suffer from depression and psychological damage.”

Indonesia, which is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and serves primarily as a transit country, hosts more than 13,000 refugees, many of whom have been dormant in the archipelago nation for years because they are third countries. I await rehabilitation.

As refugees in the Southeast Asian country find themselves mired in uncertainties, without the right to work and with only limited access to education, Asadi is using karate to help ease their anxiety and find hope. are.

“Karate helps to make them physically and mentally strong. When they wear karate uniforms, they forget that they are homeless,” she said.

“That way their stress is reduced and they become hopeful.”

Asadi, a black belt in karate, won three silver medals at the 2010 South Asian Games.

She started the Sisarua Refugee Shotokan Karate Club in 2016 and now trains 40 students three times a week for two hours per session. His youngest student is 7 years old, while his eldest is 50 years old. They are refugees from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan. More than half are girls.

The club in Indonesia, which the 29-year-old maintains with the help of local and foreign charities, was not the first, as he started back in Afghanistan shortly after returning to Kabul as an adult.

“You can imagine that she is the only girl who is a karate coach in Afghanistan; People don’t want you to do sports,” she said.

“If a girl opens a karate club for boys and girls, she will find many enemies, which I had to face. So I escaped and came here – to save my life. ,

Throughout his life, Asadi had to face many obstacles in fulfilling his karate dreams, from family members who did not believe in him and to the continuing violence in his country.

Although he is grateful for the hospitality received from Indonesia, Asadi said refugees in the transit country are like prisoners.

“We are prisoners here. Our crime is that we escaped violence and survived. We have been living without basic human rights for years,” Assadi said.

As the world celebrates World Refugee Day on Monday, Assadi hopes that there will be resettlement for him and his community in the near future.

“The world must open its doors to refugees trapped in Indonesia,” she said. “They should be settled as soon as possible because refugees are talented and skilled people.”