T Nation

BBing in Afghanistan is Making a Comeback


#1

...bodybuilding in Afghanistan is making a post-Taliban comeback. See pictures here:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/22/pumping_iron_in_kabul?page=0,0

Sadly, poor nutrition results in subpar size, but as you can imagine, cutting doesn't seem to be a problem. And you have to admire the MacGuyver-esque dedication of some of the early pathblazers.

Some choice quotes:

By the 1990s, men like Hotak, a former wrestler, were constructing makeshift weight machines and barbells out of Soviet tank parts, oil drums, and cement.

Under the theocratic rule of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, bodybuilding became a difficult activity to pursue -- men were required to work out fully clothed and during competitions were only permitted to remove their shirts.

After the Taliban were driven out of power by the NATO invasion in 2001, a mixture of U.S. influence and slowly increasing social freedoms led to an explosion of the sport's popularity. In 2001 there were only 15 gyms in the country. By 2004 that had increased to 80. Today there are well over 1,000, some of them located deep in Taliban territory. They have names such as Gold Gym, Super Gym, and Super Gold Top Gym.

Nutrition can pose a challenge: "Everyone wants to look strong, but the problem is calories. Most clients just don't have enough food," Hafizullah Anis, owner of Gold's Gym told the Guardian in 2004.

Last year's Mr. Afghanistan winner, Shukrullah Shakili, took home a tracksuit, a plastic trophy, and -- most importantly -- pride.

There's a 2004 article about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/06/afghanistan.declanwalsh


#2

Another good quote...

In those days, strong, young men could be conscripted into fighting. Today, however, "our gun is our muscle", says Ahmad Ranjber, a gym owner who boasts a 77-year-old among his clients. "And he has a good body, too," he adds.

Badass.


#3

A new found respect to these men. Bravo.