PHOTO GALLERY

Girls in Afghanistan Practice Shaolin Wushu

A group of Afghan girls learn the flowing movements of Wushu, a sport developed from ancient Chinese kung fu, in a country where women's sport is severely restricted.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The girls of the Shaolin Wushu club practice martial arts in a country where women's sports are often restricted. The girls regularly face harrassment and abuse, in addition to the normal dangers of life in Afghanistan. 

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Sima Azimi, 20, a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, shows her Wushu skills to other students. In a country where women's sport is severely restricted, the Shaolin Wushu club in a part of Kabul that is home to the capital's Hazara ethnic community, is a rare exception.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Hanifa Doosti (center), 17, and other students of the Shaolin Wushu club demonstrate their skills to other students on a hilltop in Kabul.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Azimi, the 20-year-old leading the practice session, says Wushu teaches self-defense, but just as importantly, "it's really effective for body and soul." She learned the sport in Iran, where she won a gold and bronze medal in competition, and she has been teaching in Kabul for about a year, encouraged by her father, with whom she trains at the club's gym.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Mena Azimi (right), 15, practices at the Shaolin Wushu club in Kabul.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Students of the Shaolin Wushu club chat before an exercise.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Hatifa Rezai (right), 19, a student of the Shaolin Wushu club, is reflected in a mirror as she adjusts her scarf before her exercises.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Sabera Bayanne, 20, a student of the Shaolin Wushu club, practices in Kabul.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Latifa Safay (right), 15, Hanifa Doosti (center), 17, and Suraya Rezai, 19, students of the Shaolin Wushu club, take a selfie before practicing on a hilltop in Kabul.

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

"I am working with Afghan girls to strengthen their abilities and I love to see Afghan girls improve the way other girls have improved in the world," Azimi, the trainer said. “My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country."