A senior National Poomsae team of eight athletes and two coaches from Australian Taekwondo will contest the World Poomsae Open Challenge in Muju, Korea, from November 3-5.
The 30th of August 2021 is a date that Ahmad Roman Abasy will never forget. It was the day the United States withdrew the last of its troops from his native Afghanistan, leaving the country powerless against the re-emergence of the Taliban.
“The Americans, when they made the decision to get out of Afghanistan, it was so hurried,” he says.
“No one imagined that, one day, America and all Western countries, would have left Afghanistan and now more than 13 million people under the Taliban government.”
Prior to the US invasion, the Taliban had ruled over three-quarters of the country between 1996 to 2001. It was a period that saw routine breaches of basic human rights, not to mention a lack of health services, food security and economic opportunities.
“After that [American exit], all the people of Afghanistan wanted to leave… [to] find some way that they can get out,” Abasy explains.
Abasy knew that once the Taliban had seized power, he and his family would be in serious danger. He had been a strong advocate for women’s rights and equality for many years, encouraging young girls across the country to play sport, work and get an education. All of this was fundamentally against the Taliban’s vision for women.
“When the Taliban came to Afghanistan, at first, they banned sport for girls. They told [everyone] that after today, no girl can go to the gym, do sports, and they also closed the schools for studies or education for girls.”
Abasy was not only a strong champion of women’s rights and freedoms, but a highly influential one. He was a high-profile athlete with a host of international Taekwondo medals.
He had represented Afghanistan at numerous international events, including the Asian Youth Championships, Asian Games, World Taekwondo Championships, Uzbekistan Open, Jordan Open, Fajir Open, Russian Open and the Indian Open.
“I participated in … more than 20 international championships and I got six international medals.”
Abasy’s impressive medal haul includes gold at the Indian Open, Iran Open and Tajik Open as well as silver at the Jordan Open. But perhaps his greatest achievement was a deep run in the 17th Asian Games (Incheon), where he claimed a bronze medal for his country.
He had also used his profile and platform to launch organisations and campaigns that promoted human rights. For example, he was the founder and CEO of the Peace and Prosperity Organisation and the Labkhand Charity Foundation.
“People like me, they were killed. They died because the Taliban killed them.
“At that time, I made a decision [to leave]. I emailed many places, many organisations, many countries.”
After an anxious wait, a glimmer of hope emerged from nearly 10,000 kilometres away in Australia.
“The Australian Olympic Committee replied to my email. The CEO, Matt Carroll, replied to me and helped me to come to Australia.
“I was in [constant] contact with the Australian Olympic Committee, and I updated [them on] my situation because when I received my file number for a humanitarian visa, after that [for] six months we were in Afghanistan, and for these six months, I [provided] updates all the time, all day, [telling] the AOC that I’m here.”
Whilst they waited for the visa to be processed, and transport to be arranged, Abasy and his family lived with their relatives’, staying far away from their own home to avoid reprisal.
“I was not in my home, my family was also not in my house. We shifted to our relatives’ houses… [that is] the main reason that they didn’t find us.
“After six months, the Australian Olympic Committee told us ‘we will relocate you and your family to Pakistan’.”
Abasy managed to get most of his family out of the country then, but sadly, some members of his family still remain in Afghanistan, and he fears for them every day.
“Most of my family, they came with me. We now have seven people that are with me in Australia.
“I have a big family … my father, my mother, my two sisters and brother, and also me and my wife… My brother and sister have a family in Afghanistan [that they are staying with] … I’m trying to help them and I also talked with the AOC and Australian Taekwondo to help them too [because] they’re still in Afghanistan. They’re still in the same situation that I was there.
“I'm happy that my father mother, my two sisters, my brother, and my wife are with me, but … we are one family. Every day that I think about my sister and brother that are in Afghanistan, I don’t feel very ok.
“I did good things [for women’s sports]. But now, you know, if your family is in danger, you only think about your family – ‘what’s happening with them?’”
After three months in Pakistan, Abasy and his family flew to Sydney, where they have been given accommodation in Blacktown.
“We feel very good, very happy. And we thank the Australian Government and the Australian Olympic Committee, who gave us the humanitarian visa.”
It’s now five months since Abasy and his family arrived in Australia and they are still adjusting to this country and the realities of starting a new life.
While his family has been attending TAFE classes to improve their English, Abasy has been looking for work.
“It was so hard [to leave his home country] because now it has been four months since I came to Australia. I’m looking for a job [and] finding a job is very hard for me.
“The expense of life is very high here in Australia and I must work and find a job.”
With a wealth of coaching experience under his belt, Abasy is hopeful that Australian Taekwondo clubs will give him the opportunity to share his expertise with their students.
He coached Afghanistan’s national junior team for over six years, taking them to tournaments all over the world, and even helping his athletes bring home multiple medals.
“I coached the junior [national] team in Afghanistan and we participated in international championships like the Tajikistan Open and the Uzbekistan Open – in that championship, I was the main coach, the head of the team. And during that tournament, we got international medals.”
He won coach of the tournament at the Tajikistan Open and takes just as much pride in his students’ success as his own.
“I love it… For most of my life, I think it’s been 15 years that I’ve been participating in Taekwondo. Most of the time when I’m with athletes, I talk to them about the skills, we talk with each other and I love to share these skills with them.”
Abasy is eager to share these skills with new students get back into coaching as soon as possible. Aussie coaches had the chance to meet Abasy at this year’s Australian Taekwondo National Championships, which he attending as a special guest.
“It's a big opportunity for me to meet the Australian Taekwondo members and athletes, and also meet … the [Taekwondo] people of Melbourne.
“For me, it’s very important to find a job. I feel, day by day, when you don’t find a job, you’ll be faced with a lot of problems… My family’s going to TAFE [classes] and … I’m trying to help them [and financially support] them.
Abasy will also continue to pursue his passion for helping others as an Ambassador for Australian Taekwondo’s soon to be established Refugee Program, which will work to support refugees to integrate into the Taekwondo community. He will visit schools as part of the program to educate young Australians around inclusion.
“Being an ambassador for Australian Taekwondo’s Refugee Program will be an honour and I’m grateful for both theirs and the AOC’s support.”
“[We hope] that we have a very bright future here… We will do our best to improve our [situation here] and to help our community and help Australia.”
You can contact Ahmad Roman Abasy regarding coaching opportunities via Australian Taekwondo.
For more information on his athletic achievements and his coaching experience, visit his LinkedIn page.
Melbourne will host the next Kukkiwon courses in late September. The Kukkiwon International Master Course and Kukkiwon Poom / Dan Examiners course are available for members and non-members.