In October 2012 the capital of Afghanistan saw its first ever professional boxing match.
The fight that would have been banned under Taliban rule was dubbed the “fight for peace”.
In Kabul Hamid Rahimi of Afghanistan took on Said Mbelwa of Tanzania for the “World Boxing Organisation Intercontinental Middleweight belt.”
Watched in the stadium by prominent Afghan figures, including politicians, as well as thousands of Afghan citizens from different ethnic groups, Rahimi won the fight in the seventh round.
Millions of Afghans also watched the bout on TV. In a country that has been at war for over 30 years, Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, congratulated Rahimi along with “the Afghan people” for the win.
Though born Kabul, 29-year-old Hamid Rahimi has lived in Germany since he was nine.
euronews: Hamid Rahimi, Welcome to euronews.
Recently you took part in a boxing match that you dubbed the “Fight for Peace.” In a country that has been at war for 30 to 40 years, could this fight really change anything?
Hamid Rahimi: “Considerably, I strongly believe in the project’s impact, it took two years of hard work to make it happen, much has been invested in it, for it to succeed, it’s something that I really care about.
“I’ve been in Germany for 20-years, I didn’t come here just for German citizenship, I came here because there’s peace in this country, my dream for Afghanistan is to take back and establish peace in my homeland.
“I’ve already felt war, I’ve lived through it, war is a hopeless misery, war does nothing for peace and tranquillity. War has taken the lives of many people in Afghanistan and I believe there are more victims of war in Afghanistan than anywhere else in the world.”
euronews: You said that one of the objectives of the fight was to support women’s rights, I also saw on YouTube that you train female boxers in Afghanistan. Do you not feel you’re moving too fast for Afghan society considering that, under Taliban rule, women were not even allowed to work or go out?
Hamid Rahimi: “Growing up in Germany, with my sister and mother, I was always the protector “like a lion” I learned so much from them, if they had not supported me I could never have been so successful, I think we should be close to our sisters and mothers, they must go to school, they must be able to work shoulder to shoulder next to men, if we want our homeland, Afghanistan, to advance and progress, this is very important for me.”
euronews: “Many people in Afghanistan today compare you to Muhammad Ali, they say that he fought to help black people and you fight for the Afghan people, Do you think that one day you could achieve what Muhammad Ali did?”
Hamid Rahimi: “Well, Ali is a Legend, he helped the African people, black people, a lot. He is my idol, my hero, but me, I’m Hamid and Ali is Ali.“I try to do everything for my country, I think it’s possible to establish peace but there has to be the desire, the will to do it, if not.. then even if there are thousands of military forces there, they will not be able to create peace.
“Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British and even the Russians have come before, and right now there are soldiers from over 52 countries in Afghanistan but what have they done? the Afghan people are more miserable than ever.
“I know Kabul very well and the inhabitants of this city. The situation has deteriorated compared to the time of the Taliban, there were not as many poor children in the streets as we see today .
“After the foreigners came, it’s true that some things have changed for the better; schools have been built, but I think with all the money they spent, they could do better. Today, there are a small number of Afghans who have became billionaires and then the rest of the people are very poor, look, there are many children from ordinary families that do not go to school, they become beggars instead, working 24/7, do you call that an improvement? Do you call this help? These children don’t even have a place to sleep, they take drugs, and you can see they have broken teeth, these are the children who go on to become suicide bombers.”
euronews: “So you think we should change the culture and ideologies of people?”
Hamid Rahimi: “Yes, that’s exactly right, that’s what I’m thinking, when you walk across Afghanistan, Kabul, for example, you see the images of the heroes everywhere, people who I won’t name, who become important thanks to their military career. I want to change that, I want sporting champions to take the place of the military or the soldier. When I was young my idol was Michael Jordan.
“From Germany to the United States it is pictures of sports champions that hang on the walls, I want this to also be the case in Afghanistan. Whether or not Bin Laden is alive his ideas are still present, four to five months ago an 11-year-old detonated a bomb in Paktia, Bin Laden is dead, but his thoughts and beliefs remain alive. Young people must be told that suicide bombings are wrong, it is forbidden by the Qur’an.
“Do sport if you want to become a champion, do good things if you want peace, don’t kill anyone, don’t destroy anything if you believe in God, let him decide for the others not you, I am nobody to decide whether to kill someone because they are an infidel, I am not allowed to do that.”
euronews: “You are popular and you have strong convictions for peace in Afghanistan. Doesn’t that upset the Taliban, Have they never threatened you, to make you stop what you are doing?”
Hamid Rahimi: “The Taliban is not the only enemy of my country, there were many others who were opposed to my project, who wanted to make sure it doesn’t lead to anything. These threats and obstacles are numerous in Afghanistan, but it’s these same threats that stimulate me and encourage me and help me to keep going.
“If I withdraw now, peace will never return to the country. You know, the day of my fight, all Afghans, from the street-kids in Karzai to women who had never seen a boxing match, and also our old fathers and grandfathers, all of them prayed for me, their prayers protect me, so I am afraid of nothing, I only fear god.
“And I am firm in my desire to move forward, I lived through the war, for 9 years, and I know that you need help in times of war. If not then you’re let down.”
euronews: “In all that you have told me, I see that you have a major concern, the policy and the situation of the Afghan people, might you get in to politics one day in the same way that Vitaly Klitchko, the Ukrainian world champion has done?”
Hamid Rahimi: I do not want to go into politics as such, but it has already been offered, in politics you have different factions and parties, but I want to be with the entity of the Afghan people, I don’t want to work with just one party. My project “fight for peace” is a political project, a policy led by a sportsman who seeks peace for his people, not a politician who tries to kill and impose his own rules.”
“You know, the night of my fight everyone, every small trader had closed their business to watch my fight, it is a honour for me and my team, we organised something for all Afghans, we united Afghans and brought smiles to the people of Afghanistan, it’s a source of great pleasure for me.”