Red Mountain has its fans in all seasons, but this winter the first ski lover from Afghanistan will hit the slopes in Rossland.
Skiing, like dozens of other new sports in Afghanistan, is newly established and has many enthusiasts. Skiing was founded there in 2011 by a group of Swiss and Afghan skiing enthusiasts, with the aim of promoting skiing and cultural exchange in Afghanistan.
Since then, Afghan skiers have participated and won medals in international competitions, including the World Ski Championships in Switzerland and Beijing, China.
Bamyan ski club is the first and only ski club in Afghanistan. It is based in Hazarajat, which in Bamyan means “Shining Light ” and “Valley of Gods”. It is in a mountainous area, at high elevation where the climate can be cold and harsh.
Bamyan has centuries of history and tourism. It is home to the Buddhas of Bamyan, which were carved into cliffs on the north side of Bamyan city in the 6th and 7th century CE, dating them to the Hephthalite rule.
Although skiing is new in this country, its popularity is booming. This sport has become an integral part of society and has played an important role in expanding women’s rights. So far, girls from many central regions of Afghanistan have taken to this sport and played an active role in the competitions. Sometimes their number is more than men in competitions.
After the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 by NATO, Afghanistan witnessed new political and social developments that resulted in achievements towards gender equality.
Afghanistan is a very conservative Muslim country. While the extent to which women face restrictions depends on the region in which they live, many still face limitations in accessing education and employment compared to men. The general perception of women in a strongly patriarchal society is often elegance and femininity is considered as a weakness, but here in Bamyan-Hazarah girls were more active in the society than men.
Maluf Ashrafi, who will soon move to Rossland with his young family, says, “During the past 20 years, with the presence of the international community, the youth of Afghanistan have enjoyed many blessings. They found the opportunity to live in a new environment with new values together.
“Although they had all these sacrifices, and now with the Taliban group coming to power, all these values and opportunities have been taken away from the youth of Afghanistan.”
In the past years, international skiers from the United States, Australia, Norway, Slovenia, Finland, New Zealand, France and England participated in the annual Bamyan ski competition. This year, after the Taliban group came to power, not even one foreigner participated, and women have been completely denied participation. Interest in this sport has also decreased.
West Kootenay Friends of Refugees looks forward to getting Maluf back on skis, along with his wife and daughters!
Read: West Kootenay Friends of Refugees help settle Afghan emigre