This year women from Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are participating in the olympics for the first time in history, making the London 2012 Olympics the first games to include women from every nation. Making another first for London 2012, the United States have more women (269) competing than men (261) – all a very long way from the Paris 1900 Games – when a mere 22 women (of 997 athletes) were the first EVER to compete.
While Afghanistan sent it’s first two women, Robina Muqim Yaar and Friba Razayee,to the Athens Games in 2004, it remains a controversial subject in the country. Mehboba Ahdyar, the only Afghani woman scheduled to compete in the Beijing 2008 Games, received death threats from her compatriots for her participation. She later dissappeared from a training facility and fled to Norway to seek asylum.This year, Tahmina Kohistani followed in her footsteps as the only female competing for her country, and almost gave in to the pressure, criticism and discouraging facebook messages from men in her country.
A month ago, when men gathered outside the stadium where she trained in Kabul, telling her not to run… that she was a ‘bad muslim,’ she nearly gave up.
But then something she changed her mind. “I will continue’ she decided.
“Someone should respond this way. And someone should take these problems and I am the one who is ready for the problem.”
And so, wearing the hijab, she ran a personal best in the preliminary 100 metre sprint, despite coming last in her heat.
”I knew I was not going to win a medal when I came here; I am here to begin a new era for the women of Afghanistan to show people that we can do the same things that people from other countries can do. There is no difference between us.”