The former captain of the Afghan women’s soccer team Khalida Popal sent a desperate appeal to those who were her teammates on the fields defending the colors of their country:
“Delete your identities, download the photos (from social networks) for your safety and I even tell you to burn or dispose of your national team uniforms,” he said in statements to Reuters.
The footballer, who now lives in Copenhagen, indicated that it would be best to delete her social media accounts for safety now that Afghanistan is under the rule of the Taliban again.
“My country Afghanistan 🇦🇫 collapsed. The country is taken over by an extremist group of
terrorists called the Taliban. The government surrendered. The announcement is made that
women and girls cannot work or study. All the achievements and sacrifices are
vanished. The dreamers stopped dreaming and the dreams became
nightmares. My heart goes out to every individual in 🇦🇫 to all strong women and
invincible from my country. I’m sorry for this helplessness. “
Popal recalled that in the past, Taliban militants had killed, raped, stoned and tortured women, and female soccer players should fear reprisals from that regime in the future.
The former captain of the Afghan national team and co-founder of the Afghanistan women’s soccer league, added that for many years she has used her voice to support young women to “stand firm, be bold and be visible,” but unfortunately now they are sent a different message.
“Although it is painful for me, for an activist who stood up and did everything possible to achieve and gain an identity as a soccer player in the women’s national team,” she added in an interview on video with Reuters.
She also indicated that soccer has allowed many women in Afghanistan to stand up for their rights and challenge those who want to silence them.
“They are very afraid and worried, not only the players but all the activists (…) now they have no one to turn to and seek protection or ask for help if they are in danger,” he said.
“They are afraid that at any moment someone will knock on the door.”
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 guided by a distorted view of Islamic law and prevented women from working, girls were not allowed to go to school and as adults they had to wear burqas to go anywhere, always accompanied by a male relative.
Those who violated some of these norms were humiliated, beaten and stoned in public squares by the Taliban religious police.