Afghan female footballers evade Taliban, reach Pakistan
(Sourced from PTI)
Thirty-two women football players from Afghanistan, who were facing threats from the Taliban, have reached Pakistan along with their families after the government issued emergency humanitarian visas to evacuate them. The footballers belonging to the national junior girls' team were originally due to travel to Qatar, where Afghan refugees have been housed at a facility for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
However, the female footballers were left stranded after a bomb blast at the Kabul airport that killed 13 US service members and at least 170 Afghans on August 26. These women were facing threats from the Taliban due to their involvement in the sport, Dawn newspaper reported. To recall, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August.
These women football players had since been in hiding to evade the Taliban, according to the report published on Wednesday. The move to bring the 32 footballers to Pakistan was initiated by the British-based NGO Football for Peace in cooperation with the government and the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which is not recognized by FIFA.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino had visited the Afghan refugees during his trip to Doha last week, but the global football body has been criticized for its inaction in aiding the female footballers who were still in Afghanistan. The female footballers will proceed from Peshawar to Lahore where they will be housed at the PFF headquarters.
Since coming back to power, the Taliban has been trying to distance itself from its oppressive regime in the 1990s. The group has promised to uphold women's rights and allow women to work and study. However, its actions contradict its claims. While women are now allowed to work and study, wearing burqa and segregation of classrooms based on sex have also been made mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has agreed to allow 400 sports in the country. However, new sports chief, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, declined to confirm if women can play a single one. "Please don't ask more questions about women," Rustamzai told AFP.