Nabila and Omid, from Afghanistan, carry the Youth Olympic Flame in Lausanne – Republic of Sport, 8 Jan 2020

A Tale of Two Worlds


Fed up with news of collapsology, wars and terror?  Read this and you’ll feel much better…

From arriving in Switzerland as unaccompanied minor migrants who fled war-torn Afghanistan to carrying the Youth Olympic Flame in Lausanne today: the poignant story of Nabila and Omid

Lausanne, 8th January 2020 – Nabila Furmuly and Omid Alizada, both 18, found refuge in Switzerland after a long and perilous journey across several countries (Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy…) and after being separated from the rest of their family. They arrived respectively in 2018 and 2017 as they were only 17 and 16. In 2019, they joined the Republic of Sports, a new project born out of a group of sports fanatics and professionals who wanted to leverage on sport as a tool to facilitate the social inclusion of young migrants. This project is also connected with the 3rd edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games held from 9th to 22nd January in the Olympic Capital Lausanne.

Omid Alizada, born in August 2001 in Afghanistan, grew up with his little sister in an Afghan village and had to start working at a very young age to support his family (he worked in the fields and at the local market). Threatened by the Talibans, the family left Afghanistan and fled to Iran and then to Turkey. After some very brutal stages of a journey through Turkey, it is during a police check that Omid, hidden by smugglers in a car, managed to reach Greece, while his mother and little sister got arrested and sent back to Afghanistan. Omid arrived in Switzerland in summer 2017, via Italy. He first joined the Vallorbe migrant reception center and then was directed to the center for unaccompanied minors in Chamby (on the heights of Montreux). For the past few months, he has been living with a host family at la Tour de Peilz. Omid studies French at the Transition School in Morges.

First training in judo, under the guidance of Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Sergei Aschwanden

With no real professional plans, his host family advised him on a career in health. Following a first internship, Omid now dreams of starting an apprenticeship as Assistant in community health care, if possible at the CHUV (university hospital in Lausanne). After hearing about the Republic of Sports project from its inception, during a presentation visit to the EVAM shelter home in Chamby, Omid participated in an archery initiation in June 2019. “As I liked this sport so much, I then participated in judo, korfball, curling and volleyball sessions. It makes me feel great, because I meet new people and it makes me discover lots of sports that I didn’t know! Becoming a volunteer at the Lausanne 2020 YOG is a chance for me to give back a little to the community that welcomes me. And carrying the Youth Olympic Flame today is an honor that leaves me speechless. “

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Nabila Furmuly, born in Kabul in July 2001, is the 4th in a family of 6 children. Her father worked at the Afghan interior ministry, but the Taliban threatened and blackmailed the family. This danger and permanent threat pushed the family to leave Afghanistan, through Pakistan and then Iran. Smugglers separated the family in two vehicles, but only one passed to Iran, that of Nabila, her mother and two of her brothers and sisters. Her father and other siblings were sent back to Afghanistan and now live in Pakistan. Nabila continued her journey through Turkey, then Greece, where she even got arrested and spent a few days in jail, the worst memories of her perilous journey towards a better future.

From Athens, she managed to reach Paris (after 3 attempts) on her 17th birthday, then arrived in Switzerland, first in Zurich, where she stayed for around 5 months. When she finally got to the Lausanne region, Nabila found time long and was very bored as she did not know any French! She took French classes at the transition school, then a social worker told her about the Republic of Sports. She joined the project during an initiation in judo in autumn 2019 and it was “love at first sight” for Nabila: she joined the Mikami club and has been training there for up to 4 times a week, thus making new friends and perfecting her French.

“The practice of judo gives me a lot of energy, it’s a real breath of fresh air in my life! I met some very welcoming people there. Finding myself here in Lausanne today as the bearer of the Olympic flame inspires me enormously because the values carried by Olympism have no borders, neither political nor cultural. Thank you to the Olympic Capital and the Republic of Sports for allowing me this crazy dream, before I can contribute to these Games as a volunteer”.

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Despite the difficulties in accessing education for girls in Afghanistan, Nabila has been fortunate enough to follow a normal education and is fluent in English. Even if she had always been very interested in sport when she was in Afghanistan, Nabila unfortunately had little or no access to it.

Concerning her projects in Switzerland, Nabila aims, once her French is upgraded, to find an apprenticeship, then dreams of working and joining university, maybe in social sciences or in the field of human rights and children’s rights… to, one day perhaps, improve the daily life of young people in vulnerable situations, as was her case until recently…


Philippe Furrer
Activiste du mouvement et du sport



Cet article a été publié sur en janvier 2020