Freedom in frames: photographing an Afghan refugee's Olympic dream

In an intimate and surprising series, French photographer Amandine Lauriol skilfully captures the multifaceted life of Marzieh Hamidi, a young taekwondo athlete and Afghan refugee in France. Her exhibition "Azadi" – Freedom – is showing at this year's Urban Eye photo festival in Corbeil-Essonnes outside Paris.

Lauriol has been taking portraits of sportspeople for many years, especially in the field of taekwondo – a Korean martial art she herself practiced competitively for 18 years.

She met Hamidi when she was photographing members of the French taekwondo team in 2023.

Lauriol straight away saw the potential for a documentary about this dynamic 21-year-old woman, who was forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power in 2021. Hamidi, who used to compete for the Afghan taekwondo team, had found a new home in France.

Her extraordinary journey is the embodiment of azadi – the Persian word for freedom, which inspired the title of Lauriol’s exhibition for the 12th Urban Eye (L’Oeil Urbain) festival.

"It’s impressive to see the different facets of Marzieh’s life," Lauriol told RFI.

"There’s the athlete, who wants to participate in the Olympics and is training hard to reach that goal. Then there’s the young woman who can dream again, in a country where women don’t face the same difficulties… And then there’s her combative side, not just on the mat but to have women’s voices heard, especially in her country."

Scenes of everyday life with friends are contrasted with the photos of Hamidi at her taekwondo training sessions or speaking at Unesco.

Read more on RFI English

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