Afghanistan: Women footballers evacuated from Kabul amid fears for their safety under Taliban rule
The athletes had been told to delete their social media posts about football and burn their national team shirts
Members of the Afghan national women’s football team have been evacuated from Kabul amid concerns for their safety following the Taliban takeover.
The footballers had been warned to delete their social media posts including any photos of the team members as women are not allowed to play sport under the Taliban regime.
A number of female athletes were told to go into hiding, one official told brainnewspaper
The women were evacuated on a plane from Kabul airport by the Australian government on Tuesday, as thousands scrambled to flee the country on rescue flights.
Announcing their evacuation, the global football players’ union Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels, (FIFPro) said the players had been “in a position of danger” and warned there were “many athletes still at risk in Afghanistan”.
“We are grateful to the Australian government for evacuating a large number of women footballers and athletes from Afghanistan,” the sporting body said.
“These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid.”
“There remains much work to do to support and settle these young women and we urge the international community to make sure that they receive all the help they need. There are also many athletes still at risk in Afghanistan and every effort should be made to offer them support.”
When the Taliban last seized Kabul in the 1990s, women were banned from playing sport while men’s sport continued under severe restrictions.
SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, BEING ON THE CALL ALL THE TIME ANSWERING QUESTIONS. HANDLING MEDIA, MOTIVING PLAYERS TO KEEP FIGHTING & NOT GIVE UP EVEN THERE WERE GUNFIRES, THEY WERE BEATEN. WAS TOUGH. THE 75 PLAYERS AND SOME FAMILY MEMBERS ARE OUT OF AFGHANISTAN. TEAMWORK. WORK CONTINUES. PIC.TWITTER.COM/WV5WUF10WD
— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal)
Khalida Popal, former captain of the national team, said that recent days had been “extremely stressful” but that they had now “achieved an important victory”.
“The women footballers have been brave and strong in a moment of crisis and we hope they will have a better life outside Afghanistan,” she said.
“But there is still much more work to do. Women’s football is a family and we must make sure everyone is safe.”
Ms Popal herself was forced to flee Afghanistan in 2011 over fears for her safety after she helped establish the women’s team. She now lives in Denmark.
In the wake of the Taliban takeover, she was among those advising the current team to burn their national team shirts and remove references to football from social media for their own safety.
“For so long I have been fighting to bring visibility to women of Afghanistan and to encourage women of Afghanistan to use their voices. Now I’m telling them to silence that voice, to not talk, to not meet people, to take everything down, to remove their identities. That is very painful,” she told the Guardian earlier this month.