efe_epaKabul

Fame for female athletes can turn into a death sentence in Afghanistan, where thousands of women walk around with their faces covered, leading many to flee the country in recent years.

Tamana Talash Frotan put up with daily harassment from boys until one day she grew tired of it, turned around and slapped one of them leaving him stunned and angry.

The harasser tried to punch the slightly-built, 53-kilo South-Asia Taekwondo champion, which led to greater humiliation for him.

"I felt free and strong," Frotan told EFE with a broad smile.

However, the smile faded as she began to narrate how becoming 16-time champion in her country and having won international titles have filled her life with unexpected problems.

"I started practicing taekwondo for my health, to be fit," she recalled, about a sport in which she is now a trainer at just 22 years of age.

"In the beginning there was no problem, but when I began to win medals my father began to get concerned," explained Frotan, who is studying to become a doctor.

Frotan claims the Afghan society cannot accept a girl's success, and the family too fears for her safety and wishes her to be away from the public glare.

"If I become more famous, then I will be kidnapped or someone will want to kill me or my family or someone will attack me someday," she said. "I want to be a boy."

Dozens of sports women, and athletes in general, have left Afghanistan in recent years owing to a lack of societal and familial support, resources to hone their skills, and fear of being targeted by kidnappers or the Taliban.

Speaking to EFE Afghanistan Olympic Committee's Deputy Secretary General Mirwais Bahawi admitted "it is difficult to give an exact number of female sportswomen who fled the country because over the past years tens of the athletes, which is a big number, fled the country, some of them while (they) were on tour to western countries."

Among those athletes are Tahmina Kohistani, who took part in the London Olympics 100 meters, and Taekwondo champion Humaira Mohammadi, who opted to continue with the sport away from Afghanistan.

"When an athlete, particularly female, get famous and attract the attention of the people in our society, the security threats automatically increase against him or her," Bahawi said.

"We have examples in which female athletes have received death threats and warnings," Bahawi said.

"My father tells me that if we were in another country he would have helped me," Frotan said.

She says she realizes that she has a responsibility towards other girls in the country but explains with a shrug that in Afghanistan there are things she cannot do, such as open a gymnasium.

"My classmates say they want to follow my example, I help them stay in shape, to lose weight," Frotan said.