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Morocco's women martial artists defy cultural stereotypes

Al-Monitor talks to four Moroccan female martial arts athletes about cultural stereotypes and how to inspire and empower future generations of female fighters.
Morocco's Btissam Sadini (L) competes against Serbia's Jovana Prekovic in the women's kumite -61kg elimination round of the karate competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 6, 2021.

The world of martial arts has been opening up to female fighters only recently. While famous mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and ex-judoka Ronda Rousey paved the way to the ring for generations of fighters internationally — de facto changing a very macho environment — in the Arab world the concept of a female fighter is still something new.

Yet it is the very traditional Morocco that is producing a number of female champions, in many different martial arts disciplines. Perhaps this is because Morocco promotes martial arts. The Union of the Royal Moroccan Federation of Martial Arts and Combat Sports, which was established in 2014 by the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports, actively promotes, develops and protects the interests of this sport.

During the Islamic Solidarity Games 2022 in Turkey, Morocco secured 62 medals: 15 gold, 13 silver and 34 bronze medals. In June, the sport received additional attention when Moroccan boxer Aya Bozarhoun won the fourth title at the Muay Thai and Boxing Championship in France. The 11-year-old athlete has dominated several regional and national boxing and Muay Thai competitions recently, receiving praise from the president of the Moroccan Royal Federation of Kickboxing and Muay Thai, Abdelkrim El Hilali.

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