'Burn Kit, Delete Photos': Former Afghan Women's Soccer Captain

"My country is falling apart, getting from bad to worst for women & so many other innocents," Khalida Popal said.

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Former Afghan women's soccer captain Khalida Popal has asked her team members to get rid of everything for their own safety.&nbsp;</p></div>

“Today I’m calling them and telling them, take down their names, remove their identities,” said former Afghan women's soccer captain Khalida Popal in an interview with Reuters on 19 August.

Popal, who currently is living in Copenhagen, further added that with the return of the Taliban, women players in the country should take urgent steps to remove all traces of their sporting history for their protection.

“And that is painful for me, for someone as an activist who stood up and did everything possible to achieve and earn that identity as a women’s national team player. To earn that badge on the chest, to have the right to play and represent our country, how much we were proud (sic)," Popal said.

Apart from Popal, the same advice was given by a source close to Afghanistan's cycling federation saying that women players in the country have been told to stay at home and are barred from posting on social media, reported The Guardian.

“At the moment [they are] safe but it is my expectation that within some months, like one or two months, I’m sure that nobody can guarantee their life. These are real dangers,” the source said. “The freedom they had to ride a bike is impossible to get now. They are shocked and they are afraid," the source added.

The source further added that the Taliban's return was so sudden that it gave no time or chance for the women to flee the country.

“Everything changed in 48 hours. Nobody was able to escape. If it [had been] a week or something, we would have sent them to neighbouring countries. But it all happened on the same day. The airport is closed; everywhere you see terrorists with guns.”

'Dreams Faded, Dreamers Stopped Dreaming!'

Popal on Sunday, 15 August, took to Linkedin to post about the same.

She wrote, "I feel pain & heaviness in my chest. I have a difficult time to breath & sleep knowing the life of many women and girls in my country Afghanistan is in great danger. (sic)"

"My country is falling apart, getting from bad to worst for women & so many other innocent people. The dreams are fading, and dreamers are hopeless."
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Khalida Popal via Linkedin.</p></div>

Khalida Popal via Linkedin.

(Photo courtesy: Linkedin/Khalida Popal)

Popal also mentioned that the footballers she had spoken to were scared as anybody can knock on their doors anytime and they don't have anywhere to go to.

She wrote, "Women and girls are writing to me that they are scared of the Taliban, they can not sleep because they have seen videos of the Taliban taking women & girls as their sex slaves. I have no words to write to help them, I am helpless. (sic)"


Until 2001, Women in Afghanistan Were Not Allowed To Play Sports

When Taliban was in power from 1996 to 2001, women were not allowed to work and girls were forbidden to go to school or participate in sports. It was mandatory for women to wear burqas while going out and they could only step out when accompanied by a male relative.

Several athletes received death threats in the past decade even before the return of the Taliban.

The stadium was requisitioned for executions in the 1990s under the rule of the Taliban. A mother of seven was shot in front of 30,000 spectators at a Kabul stadium in the year 1999, reported iNews.

Zakia Khudadadi, who was supposed to be Afghanistan’s first woman Paralympian, had to withdraw from the Tokyo Games this year due to political unrest in their country. Another Afghan athlete, Hossain Rasouli, couldn't make it to the Tokyo Olympics for the same reason.

The International Paralympic Committee released a notice saying, “regrettably NPC [National Paralympic Committee] Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games."

They added, "Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo. We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time.”

(With inputs from The Guardian and iNews)

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