Javad shows with pride his certificates of participation in various kickboxing competitions. His third-place finish at the national Turkish championship feels heavier than a gold medal, considering he can only afford one training per week. “I arrived there straight from a long day of work, I did not take any rest, but I won.”
Javad’s journey with kickboxing began at the age of nine when his father introduced him to the sport. “I was a very calm boy, but kickboxing made me feel more confident and excited,” he recalls fondly.
As this early passion grew, Javad was confronted with the difficulties of living in a country at war.
After his father left Afghanistan and the family received no news from him, Javad took a courageous decision at the age of 14 – he decided to flee on his own. “I was afraid to go on a journey by myself. There was no guarantee of survival.”
Javad managed to arrive in Türkiye, where he registered with UNHCR and was placed in a state care institution in Ankara as an unaccompanied child.
Despite the circumstances, he continued his kickboxing training at night, determined to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete.
UNHCR provides such adolescent refugees with protection and material assistance conditioned on enrollment in education. This assistance helps them to access shelter, education, and livelihood opportunities, which are critical to ensuring self-reliance during the transition into adulthood.
With the support of UNHCR’s assistance, Javad started to build his future. He now attends Turkish classes and trains in kickboxing.
“This program, integrating assistance and education, is an important protection tool for young refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled alone or have been separated from their families because of war and have no one else to count on”, says Elmar Bagirov, UNHCR Senior Protection officer in charge of the program. “In the past two years, UNHCR supported over 350 adolescents, thanks to the contribution of EU Humanitarian Aid.”
Apart from paying for his training, Javad dedicates himself to working different jobs to support his mother and sister, who sought refuge in Iran.
For Javad, kickboxing is more than just a sport; it is a lifeline of hope. “While I do my exercise, I feel more comfortable and free. All my stress is gone, I feel relieved”.
Javad’s hopes for the future go well beyond sports. “I hope I can help others, as there are many people who suffer like me, especially in Afghanistan. I don’t want anything for myself.”
Thanks to donors, including EU Humanitarian Aid, UNHCR-supported programs will continue to provide dignified support and assistance to vulnerable groups, helping individuals like Javad find hope and strength in their journey towards a better life.