Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghan women’s soccer team, has asked the country’s players to delete their photos and profiles from social networks and burn their uniforms for safety, days after the country fell definitively into the hands of the Taliban.
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Popal, 34, who obtained asylum in Denmark after fleeing the country for safety, explained in statements to the AFP agency that there are already armed Taliban fighters who go from house to house in search of enemies of the regime, despite the fact that their A spokesman announced last Tuesday at a press conference that there would be a “general amnesty” and that they would work for national “reconciliation”.
The footballer has also agreed an interview with Reuters agency in which she explains that she has always used her voice to encourage young women to “stand firm, be bold and visible.” In 2007, together with other colleagues, she created the Afghan women’s soccer team, a difficult process in a very restrictive country. After years of activism for the visibility of women, her message has changed.
“Today I call them and tell them to erase their names, remove their identities, erase their photos for their safety. I even ask them to burn or dispose of their national team uniforms,” he assured.
“This is painful for me, for someone who, as an activist, stood up and did everything possible to gain that identity as a player for the women’s national team,” she added.
During the Taliban government between 1996 and 2001, the regime imposed an ultra-orthodox vision of Islamic law that prevented women from studying or working, leaving the house if they were not accompanied by a family man, and forcing them to cover themselves completely with a burqa. . Men were forced to grow beards, cinemas were closed, and music, chess and games of chance were banned.
“The women in my family who went out to the streets were told to turn around and go home, not to go to school or they would be beaten,” says the former soccer player from Copenhagen about the current situation.
Khalida Popal fears for the fate of Afghan players, seeing soccer as a tool to fight for women’s rights. “I was one of the people who founded the team with the goal of staying together as women from Afghanistan,” she recalls.
“We wanted to send a message to the world and to the Taliban: we (women) are not weak, you can kill our sisters, but we will show you that we are by their side,” she adds.
“My players are girls who have affirmed on social networks that the Taliban are the enemy. Now they see this armed enemy in front of their doors and windows and they are afraid of what might happen to them,” she lamented.
Abandonment of the international community
In conversation with AFP, Popal was critical of the role of the international community and assured that neither she nor her teammates understand the “abandonment” suffered by women.
“When the players call me, they say: ‘Why did they (the West) betray us? Why did the politicians abandon the women of Afghanistan? What have we done wrong?'” She wonders.
These soccer players are part of the thousands and thousands of women who are trapped in the country without being able to escape. Due to the blocked access to the Kabul airport, it is almost impossible for them to be evacuated. Popal explains that they are currently limited to “moving from one place to another.”
The former captain does not believe in the “empty and empty words” of the Taliban leaders, who declare that they will respect the rights of women and allow them to work and receive education, always within the framework of sharia.
“If they follow the sharia, there will be no rights for women, whoever they are. All the dreams they have will evaporate,” she told AFP.