Afghan women's football team fear for their lives

2 months ago 18

By AP -- In frantic telephone calls and dependable messages, Khalida Popal tin perceive the distress and tearful pleas for help.

The shot players successful the Afghanistan women's nationalist squad that Popal helped found present fearfulness for their lives aft the Taliban swept to regain power of the state aft 2 decades.

When they call, each Popal tin bash is counsel them to fly their homes, flight from neighbors who cognize them arsenic pioneering players, and effort to erase their past — peculiarly activism against the Taliban who are present re-establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

"I person been encouraging to instrumentality down societal media channels, instrumentality down photos, flight and fell themselves," Popal told The Associated Press successful a telephone interrogation from Denmark.

"That breaks my bosom due to the fact that of each these years we person worked to rise the visibility of women and present I'm telling my women successful Afghanistan to unopen up and disappear. Their lives are successful danger."

Khalida Popal, the erstwhile Afghanistan nationalist women's shot squad captain, successful 2016. (AP)

The 34-year-old Popal tin hardly comprehend the velocity of the illness of the Afghan authorities and the consciousness of being abandoned by Western nations who helped to topple the Taliban successful 2001. Having fled with her household aft the Taliban captured Kabul successful 1996, Popal returned to Afghanistan 2 decades agone arsenic a teen who had been surviving successful a exile campy successful Pakistan. With the extortion of the planetary community, Popal felt optimistic that women's rights would beryllium promoted.

"My procreation had the anticipation of gathering the country, processing the concern for the adjacent procreation of women and men successful the country," she said. "So I started with different young women utilizing shot arsenic a instrumentality to empower women and girls."

By 2007, determination were capable players for Popal to beryllium portion of Afghanistan's archetypal women's nationalist team.

"We felt truthful arrogant of wearing the jersey," Popal said. "It was the astir beautiful, champion feeling ever."

Popal encouraged her teammates to usage their platforms to talk retired arsenic escalating attacks were seeing the Taliban retake territory.

"I received truthful galore decease threats and challenges due to the fact that I was quoted connected the nationalist TV," she said. "I was calling Taliban our enemy."

Popal stopped playing successful 2011 to absorption connected coordinating the squad arsenic a manager astatine the Afghanistan Football Association. But the threats continued and she was yet forced to fly Afghanistan to question asylum successful Denmark successful 2016.

"My beingness was successful large danger," she said.

But she ne'er abandoned the pistillate footballers, helping to exposure carnal and intersexual abuse, decease threats and rape that implicated the Afghanistan federation leadership. The corruption successful the athletics was reflective of the shaky foundations of a state that has deteriorated rapidly aft the withdrawal of troops from the US-led mission.

"The women of Afghanistan believed successful their committedness but they near due to the fact that there's nary much nationalist interest. Why did you promise?" Popal asked. "This is what my girls crying and sending dependable messages are saying. Why not accidental you would permission similar this? At slightest we could support ourselves."

An exasperated Popal sighs.

"We would not person created enemies," Popal said. "They are crying. They are conscionable crying … they are sad. They are conscionable similar desperate. They person truthful galore questions. What is happening to them isn't fair.

"They are hiding away. Most of them near their houses to spell to relatives and fell due to the fact that their neighbors cognize they are players. They are sitting, they are afraid. The Taliban is each over. They are going astir creating fear."

Khalida Popal, erstwhile skipper of the Afghan women's nationalist shot team. (FIFA via Getty Images)

Popal is simply a satellite distant but connected by the messages pinging into her telephone of the Taliban.

"They support taking video and photos from the model showing they are conscionable extracurricular the location and that is precise sad," she said.

It's hard to adjacent ideate Afghanistan, ranked 152nd by FIFA retired of 167 women's teams, playing again.

"It's been precise achy to witnesser erstwhile yesterday the authorities surrendered," Popal said. "Women mislaid hope."

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