Afghan Karate champ fighting her way through refugee process in Indonesia

KBR journalist Randyka Wijaya traveled to Cisarua, to meet Meena Asadi, one asylum seeker who isn’t wasting any time. Throughout the refugee process, she's been practising her passion, karate.


Senin, 16 Jan 2017 09:37 WIB

Meena Asadi practising karate. (Photo: Randyka Wijaya)

Meena Asadi practising karate. (Photo: Randyka Wijaya)

For years thousands of asylum seekers from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran have lived in the mountain village of Cisarua, a few hours from the Indonesian capital.

They fled conflict and persecution but now, stranded in Indonesia, life isn’t that much better. Asylum seekers can’t work or study and it takes years for asylum requests to be processed. And, there’s no certainty as to when if and when they might be accepted by a third country.

KBR journalist Randyka Wijaya traveled to Cisarua to meet Meena Asadi, one asylum seeker who isn’t wasting any time.

Thousands of asylum seekers live here in this village in West Java, in small houses down narrow alleyways, just passable by a motorbike or on foot.

Cisarua is also home to Meena Asadi.

Born in Afghanistan, Meena is from the ethnic Hazara minority, a community that has been frequently targeted by the Taliban, and more recently by groups aligned with the Islamic State.

Meena and her parents fled to Pakistan to escape the civil war when she was 12 years old.

Now 24, Meena is petite, but that shouldn’t fool you. She’s a karate champion, who has competed in both national and international karate championships.

In 2010, Meena was a member of Pakistan's national team for the ASIAN Games in Bangladesh.

“I am a professional,” she tells me. 

“I've got 38 gold medals from national and international championships. From India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Meena practiced karate in the Pakistani city of Quetta, but she longed to return home to Afghanistan to represent her country.

But that never happened. Her family was forced to flee violence in Pakistan, after first fleeing Afghanistan, and that’s how Meena ended up here, in Indonesia, two years ago.

“The situation in Afghanistan day by day was bad. That’s why I came here. Especially for me, because I was famous in Afghanistan and all the people know me,” said Meena. 

“And also in Pakistan people know me. And imams in mosques said about me that it’s not good for women especially for a lady.”

Meena fled with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.

They had to pay people smugglers to fly them to Indonesia, about $5,000 USD for each adult.

Her husband Ashraf Jawadi told me they traveled from India to Malaysia, and then Indonesia on an Afghani passport and an illegal visa.

But to seek asylum they have to first be granted official refugee status by the United Nations agency for refugees, or UNHCR, a process that can, and often does, take many years.

And that’s before their claims are sent to countries that might be willing to host them.

Unable to work or study, it’s a long and uncertain waiting game for Meena and her family.

To drive away her boredom Meena tells me she teaches karate to the children of refugees three times a week.

“I have the club in Indonesia for about seven months and I have many students here. All of them are refugees not only from Afghan, some of them are from Iraq.”

As for everyday life, Meena still relies on savings and remittances from her relatives back at home.

It’s a tough wait for now, but Meena says she still dreams of being a world karate champion.

“When I go from Indonesia to another country I should play more and more and I should show my self to all the world that I can. An Afghani girl can play. An Afghani girl can be a champion. That’s my dream. I should work hard and I should show my self to all of the world.”


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