How does football bring the comfort of fear to the struggle with Hazara women?football

Karachi, Pakistan – 19-year-old Sughra Rajab and 21-year-old Shamsia Ali are just two young football players representing the Hazara Quetta team in the National Women’s Football Championship in March this year.

The two travelled hundreds of kilometers from Quetta in the southwestern province of Balochistan to Karachi, a coastal city in the south.

For Ali, coming to Karachi and playing at that level is a “dream come true”.

At the same time, Rajab called it “a lifetime opportunity” and added: “The exposure here is amazing and I really like it.”

Enjoying their favorite sports without worrying about the troubles off the court is not only comforting for both of them, but also for the whole team.

These girls belong to the Hazara minority community in Pakistan. Most Hazaras live in Quetta, Pakistan’s largest but poorest provincial capital. For a long time, the Hazaras have been persecuted, attacked and bombed.

According to a report issued by the National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 2018, since 2005, nearly 2,000 Hazaras have been killed by long-term sectarian violence against the community.

Enjoy their favorite sports without worrying about the troubles outside the stadium, which seems to be a relief for the whole team [Courtesy Fida Hussain]

Amidst sectarianism, violence and fear, football has become a beacon of hope for the community, especially for girls.

In the hot sun, wearing black scarves and shorts with black leggings will make them feel uneasy. The memories of returning to Hazara Town in Quetta enclave are still full of their own discomfort and trauma.

Rajab said: “We try to move on in our daily lives, visit friends and family, and participate in sports.” “But when the security situation deteriorates, we stay at home. Safety is our biggest concern.”

For safety reasons, going to Karachi to participate in the game is not an easy decision for the players or their families.

“Two years ago, I lost an uncle in a targeted attack. Mentally, I have always felt very upset.

For Ali, it is also difficult to convince her family.

“My father said that if the men in our community cannot be safe, how can we expect women to be safe,” Ali said.

But it was the team coach Saba It who managed to convince his parents after months of consultation and consultation.

“Our community is a victim of constant persecution and killing. A year before the game, I had to plan and start to convince their families.” Said Saba, a former football player representing Balochistan.

She added that targeted killings have deprived the Hazaras of many opportunities that a safe environment can provide.

She said: “Trauma and fear are so common in everything we do, and they are deeply ingrained in every decision in our lives.”


In January this year, a group of ISIL fighters claimed to have attacked 11 coal miners in the Hazara community. They were kidnapped and killed in Maher, Balochistan province.

Community members organized a sit-in protest, demanding justice. They insisted not to bury the dead until Prime Minister Imran Khan visited them.

When Prime Minister PM Khan first asked for extortion, he flinched and visited the families on January 9.

After the attack, Saba’s year-long struggle to persuade her parents to let the girls travel was hit hard.

“It was just a hard work to convince them again. After the attack, some parents flinched. The girls kept crying and crying,” she said.

Initially, Sabah was committed to helping and empowering Hazara women, which prompted young girls to become interested in football, and subsequently formed a team.

In 2017, she opened a handicraft and sewing workshop in the town of Hazara to provide accommodation for everyone, including young Hazara women who were killed in the attack.

Participants discovered the colorful photos of the days she was playing in the studio, which aroused the interest of the participants.

Rajab said: “We saw Saba’s picture of a football player, which fascinated us.”

Initially, Saba received informal football training. But it is not simple.

“We will go out before dawn, so no one will see our training. We train in an open field every week. At the time, we couldn’t afford suitable football.”

Within a year, ambitious. They hope to form a suitable team, participate in regular football matches, and represent their community at a professional level.

Out of these wishes, Saba asked Hazara Football Academy to allow the use of their field.

Frightened environment

At first, she was ridiculed. People questioned women’s participation in this sport. However, persistence paved the way for their approval.

“After constant requests, the college allowed us to use their positions. We paid 15,000 Pakistani rupees [$98.5] Saba said: “Train once a month, three times a week.”

A 2018 Human Rights Watch report described the living conditions of the Hazara community in Quetta, reflecting the public prison sentenced for violence. The terrifying environment is tricky in every generation of Hazara experience.

Although there are checkpoints in the province and security is provided, the violence and attacks on the Hazaras in Balochistan province continue [Courtesy: Saba It]

Human rights activist and advocate Jalila Haider (Jalila Haider) specifically targeted women, saying that “there is a double danger in society.”

“They were marginalized at first because they were women. Because they came from the Hazara community, the degree of marginalization doubled.” Haider told Al Jazeera.

“Sexist social issues and the fear cycle of the community have further conquered Hazara women. They have been traumatized by the loss of uncles, brothers or fathers. In the turbulent environment, lack of professional skills and liberation, they are plagued by violence, which makes them Suffering deeply.”

Saba and many girls in the convoy were also psychologically disturbed.

“Every Hazara family bleeds because of terrorism. The girls are always in a state of shock and worry.” Saba said. “Some players will keep crashing. Sometimes, the pressure makes them faint.”

Saba faces the coach bravely, but sometimes, as a human being, she falls into depression because of fear.

“Sometimes, I don’t know what to do. I am responsible for these young girls.”

“In the first two weeks, I cried a lot all night. People were very worried about safety.”

After returning to Quetta, Saba began to provide counseling to these families, aiming to free them from fear and let the girls play.

Saba said that these courses were organized with the headmaster of the girls’ school. Through a systematic approach, parents learned about the important role of football in their daughter’s life.

“I told them that these girls are troubled and need to go out. They need to play football and gain experience outside of confined spaces in order to feel better.” Saba added.

Ali said that in Karachi, changes in the environment have doubled her confidence.

“I am meeting with people from outside, I have learned a lot from other players, and the motivation they bring to the game. Spiritually, I feel that now I want to stand out in all levels of football matches.” She Say.

40-year-old Ali Hunardost is the father of a player in the team. Unlike most families who don’t want their daughter to travel and entertain, Hunardost is eager to let her daughter move on.

“People are afraid of their lives, but I don’t think we should live too negatively. Only when men and women have equal opportunities can we make progress.” said the father of five children.

Hunardost’s 20-year-old daughter has been playing football for two years.

“She is quiet at school, but always good at sports, so I encourage her to start football training. I want to support all her achievements. My other daughter does martial arts.”


Although there are checkpoints and security guarantees throughout the province, violence and attacks on the Hazaras in Istluchi Province continue. Haider believes that the situation is still unpredictable.

“We can’t predict whether the situation will improve. Sometimes, we feel relieved that nothing happened, and suddenly, something happened.

“Hazaras need to feel safe, and investment in human capital is vital at all levels. We need empowerment and equal opportunities so that we can contribute to the country’s economy.” Haider said.

At the same time, Ali and Rajab are eager to pursue and play football internationally.

“Everyone is ambitious, and so are we. I’m sure if we can live in Karachi after so much hardship and lack of resources, imagine how we will excel if things become simple.”

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