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‘Shut up and hide’: Afghanistan’s female footballers in tears, afraid and desperate after Taliban’s return, reveals former captain

The International Paralympic Committee had earlier announced on Monday that athletes from Afghanistan will not participate in the Games due to the ongoing situation in the country.

Former Afghanistan women’s football team captain Khalida Popal said that the lives of women footballers in the country are in danger with the resurrection of the Taliban regime in the country. 

With scores of Afghani men clutching onto airplanes to exit the country, the women of the country are living under fear considering the atrocities they had to face under the Taliban rule two decades ago.

“I have been encouraging them to take down social media channels, take down photos, escape and hide themselves,” The Associated Press quoted Popal.

“That breaks my heart because of all these years we have worked to raise the visibility of women and now I’m telling my women in Afghanistan to shut up and disappear. Their lives are in danger,” she added. 

Khalida Popal herself had fled Afghanistan with her family in 1996 and had sought refuge in Pakistan. She returned to Kabul after 20 long years but had to abandon her country again because of threats.

“We felt so proud of wearing the jersey,” Popal said after there were enough players to form a football team in 2007. 

“My generation had the hope of building the country, developing the situation for the next generation of women and men in the country. So I started with other young women using football as a tool to empower women and girls,” she said talking about creating and coaching a women’s football team. 

“I received so many death threats and challenges because I was quoted on the national TV. I was calling Taliban our enemy,” said Popal who thought her country had been freed from the extremist Islamic regime. 

Revealing that the girls of the football team are now in hiding, Khalida Popal added, “They are crying. They are just crying, they are sad. They are just desperate. They have so many questions. What is happening to them isn’t fair.”

“They are hiding away. Most of them left their houses to go to relatives and hide because their neighbors know they are players. They are sitting, they are afraid. The Taliban is all over. They are going around creating fear,” she said further. 

Popal has been receiving distress calls from the girls to whom she can only advise. As per reports, Popal has asked them to flee their homes and try to erase their history, especially their activism against the Taliban. 

“They keep taking video and photos from the window showing they are just outside the home and that is very sad,” she said.

Paralympians to not take part in Tokyo Paralympics 2020

The panic-stricken country will not be participating in the Tokyo Paralympics 2020. The International Paralympic Committee had earlier announced on Monday that athletes from Afghanistan will not participate in the Games due to the ongoing situation in the country. 

“Regrettably, NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo,” said IPC spokesman Craig Spence.

Two Afghan Paralympians, track athlete Hossain Rasouli, and taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, the first woman to represent the country, will be missing the Games. 

Afghanistan Paralympic Committee chief Arian Sadiqi remarked, “For me, it’s heartbreaking. This would have been the first female Afghan taekwondo player to take part. This was history in the making. She was excited to take part.”

“She was very passionate to compete. Zakia would have been a great role model for the rest of the females in the country,” he added. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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