Friba Rezayee

Advocate for Afghan girls in education and sports

Region(s): Asia
Country of focus: Afghanistan, Canada, Pakistan
Based in Vancouver


Current Occupation: Advocate for Afghan girls in education and sports
Organization/Institution: Women Leaders of Tomorrow
Language: English, Farsi


The IOC has turned a blind eye to Taliban violations of the Olympic Charter for more than two years Play The Game Nov 7, 2023

Afghanistan’s female cricketers plead with sport’s world governing body: help us play again Washington Post Sept 1, 2023

2 years in, activists warn backsliding for women, girls continues unabated in Taliban’s Afghanistan CBC Aug 14, 2023

Why this young Afghan student is a Woman Leader of Tomorrow CBC TV News Jul 23, 2023

ICC under increasing pressure to suspend Afghanistan Deutsche Welle News Jan 23, 2023

Ottawa urged to act after Taliban shuts women out of higher education CBC News Dec 21, 2022

Afghanistan’s first female Olympian: IOC is funding the Taliban-controlled NOC in Kabul Play the Game Jun 30, 2022

Silver is the new Gold podcast Episode 14: Friba Rezayee Feb 3, 2022

Olympic Judoka Fights for Women in Afghanistan The Long Game Podcast Foreign Policy & Doha Debates Nov 2021

‘Dying for peace:’ Afghanistan’s first female Olympian says women will not give up their liberties easily profile on CNN Sports Aug 21, 2021

‘We just think Canada can do more’: Afghan women in Vancouver want Canadian government to take action CTV News Vancouver Aug 22, 2021

‘Emotionally and mentally paralyzed’: Afghans living in B.C. fear for family after Taliban takeover Aug 16, 2021

The uncertain future for women and girls in Afghanistan Global News Aug 18, 2021

The True Heroines International Judo Federation News  April 20, 2021

The right to run: Afghani female Olympian fights stigma with ‘Secret Marathon’ race in Vancouver Mar 6, 2019 CBC

Forty-two seconds that put Afghan women on the map The Guardian Aug 19, 2004

OLYMPICS: Unveiling New Face of Afghan Freedom New York Times June 7, 2004



Friba Rezayee (@FribaRezayee) made history by competing in Judo at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens as one of the first two female Olympians from Afghanistan. Her participation in the Olympics helped bring Afghanistan back to the world stage in sports three years after the fall of the Taliban  – which had banned women from participating in sports. She inspired other Afghan girls to take up sports. After the Taliban took power again in 2021, two decades later, Friba used her rare experience to draw attention to the human rights of Afghan girls and women.

Friba is a passionate advocate for women and girls’ education and access to sports, gender equality, human rights, and women’s rights in Afghanistan and worldwide. She is the founder and Executive Director of Women Leaders of Tomorrow, a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada which organizes resources to provide post-secondary education to young Afghan women and to provide platforms for leadership and empowerment through sports, Judo in particular.

Friba was one of 40 next-generation women from 13 countries selected for the 2023/24 International Women’s Forum Leadership Fellows program.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia and works in Vancouver’s public school system. She emigrated to Canada in  2011 to escape violence and persecution, as a member of the Hazara ethnic minority.