Berlin (AFP)

A promising figure in German women's boxing, Zeina Nassar is not only fighting in the ring. She also scrapes to accept his hijab in international competitions, despite criticism.

The delicately made up face, framed by a pastel-colored floral veil that conceals her hair, sunglasses raised on the top of the skull, the 21-year-old Berliner clearly shows her ambitions.

The Olympics in Tokyo next year and those in Paris in 2024 "are my big dream, my big goal," she smiles between two training sessions.

Sitting at a café in the bohemian-Turkish neighborhood of Kreuzberg, where she was born and raised, Zeina Nassar can now dream of qualifying for the Olympics.

Because in February, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) changed its rules to allow wearing the hijab in the ring.

"Now the prerequisites (to qualify) are the same for all," says Zeina Nassar. "Only sporting performance has to be counted in. It does not have to be reduced to its external appearance," said the young sportswoman, who in training and competition wears a hijab, leggings and a top that covers her arms.

- Many obstacles -

Since discovering female boxing as a teenager, Zeina Nassar has had to overcome obstacles. "It was as if I had to prove twice as much, because not only am I a boxing woman but I wear the veil".

She has already won a German title of 2018 and six Berlin titles in the featherweight category. In 24 official bouts, Zeina Nassar, 57 kg, has recorded 18 victories including one by KO, rare in this category.

"My boxing style is very unconventional but I'm super fast, that's my strength!", She enthuses, miming uppercuts and hooks.

Spotted from its beginnings in the ring, the student in Education and Sociology could not compete in international fights because of her veil.

This year, the German Boxing Federation, which changed its rules for her in 2013, has nominated her for the European Under-22 Championship, but the sportswoman could not defend her chances because of her .

Zeina Nassar, who also speaks Arabic and travels regularly to Lebanon where her parents are from, has never thought of taking off her hijab for boxing. "Why should I have done this?" For me it has always been clear that I will participate in fights with my veil.

Far from another boxer, the Iranian Saedaf Khadem, who won in April in France his first "official fight" in shorts and tank top.

In Germany, the debate around the veil is appeased and it is widely accepted in the name of religious freedom.

But the Olympic ambitions of the Berliner, like other sports practicing their discipline with a hijab, arouse criticism in a more general context of irruption of the religious in the sport and the sports equipment manufacturers. In February, faced with the waves, the French sports brand Decathlon had to give up marketing in France a "hijab" for the sport.

- Olympic Charter -

This veil, as a religious sign, violates the Olympic spirit, say its opponents.

"Even though the Boxing Federation, like most federations (in other sports), has surrendered, the Olympic Charter has not changed" and prohibits any political, religious or racial demonstration, recalls the President of the League. of International Women's Law Annie Sugier.

The activist for women's rights denounces the participation in the Olympics of countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which require their athletes to be "covered from head to toe". "Sexual apartheid," she says.

It also emphasizes that the "fashion modest", in full expansion, is a "market of hundreds of billions of euros" coveted by many brands. Zeina Nassar is one of Nike's muses who has been selling a competition hijab for almost two years.

The champion, very active on social networks, sees herself as a model for young Muslim women. She participates in a poster campaign on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the German Basic Law where she promotes Article 4 according to which "The free exercise of worship is guaranteed".

© 2019 AFP