Afghanistan Seeks to Arrest Soccer Chief Amid Sex Abuse Scandal
Afghan officials on Sunday, 9 June, issued an arrest warrant to former Afghan soccer chief Keramuddin Keram, a day after soccer's world governing body FIFA found him guilty of sexually abusing female players and banned him from the sport for life, reported The Washington Post.
Keram had been provisionally banned by FIFA's ethics committee following allegations made by five female Afghan players concerning acts of sexual assault committed between 2013 and 2018, according to AFP.
Keramuudin Keram, who was president of the Afghanistan Football Federation, was also fined 1 million Swiss francs (1 million dollars) by FIFA.
‘Basesless’: Afghan Football Federation Rejects Allegations
Allegations against Keram became public late last year when Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported that players from the women's national team had accused him and other top soccer officials in Afghanistan of rampant sexual abuse and bullying.
The culture of abuse was unearthed when former soccer team captain Khalida Popal organised a training camp in Jordan last year, and several players confided in her. Popal fled Afghanistan in 2016 and has sought asylum in Denmark ever since.
Keram abused the girls in a room in his office that was accessible only with his fingerprint, Popal told The Guardian.
However, the Afghan Football Federation rejected all allegations and stood behind Keram, saying they were "baseless," according to The Washington Post.
When several players threatened to go to the media, nine were kicked off the team and accused of being lesbians, in order to intimidate and silence them, Popal said.
In February, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 20 women have come forward with accusations against Keram and other officials, though most of them spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Afghanistan's attorney general's office also suspended Keram and five other Afghan officials from the national federation in December. In addition to the FIFA investigation, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered a government probe, but findings have not yet been announced.
‘We Are Not Done Yet’
Popal, who reportedly had collected accounts from former teammates that included sexual violence, death threats and rapes applauded FIFA's decision but said it was only a “first step.”
“We are not done yet,” she said on Twitter.
"Football is not a place for abuse... Women should be protected," she added.
Keram has previously denied the accusations, denouncing them as part of a “conspiracy” and “without evidence.”
Keram can appeal the FIFA decision, including at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.
(With inputs from The Washington Post and AFP.)