Afghanistan. Athletes are at risk and the future is uncertain for them

Athletes and athletes suffered greatly, losing the right to participate in sports under the new Taliban government.

Many of them remain isolated and fear for their lives after the Taliban entered the country to seize power. Some of them were lucky and managed to leave. They live in exile and fight for their colleagues, most of whom are still in Afghanistan.

“There are 130 other female athletes to be evacuated. If the Taliban finds her, Fariba Razai, a former judoka, told RFI, that means 100 people will be flogged or even killed.

Rezaei, 36, the country’s first athlete to compete in the Olympics, is in constant contact with athletes still hiding in Afghanistan. Many of them changed their identities for fear of being beaten, stoned to death or shot by the Taliban regime.

“Many are still afraid when someone knocks on the door and what they have been through is horrible. Why? It is punishable by exercise.”

Eq currently lives in Canada, where she leads the Women Leaders of Tomorrow.

When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, he was among those who helped the athletes leave the country.

Khaleda Popal, former champion and founder of the women’s national soccer team, now lives in Denmark. The team left Herat with close family members and coaches.

And she, like Rezaei, mobilized the athletic community to help women in her country make their voices heard.

“I see our women’s dreams crumbling. This is a rights issue, and while I don’t want to be pessimistic, I hope that youth and sports organizations will take a stand and help women take back what belongs to them.”

caught in the middle

Both Rezaei and Bhopal attended the Play the Game conference in Odense, Denmark, where they discussed some of the most pressing issues facing the world of sports and how disillusioned sporting bodies in Afghanistan have been following the return of the Taliban regime to power.

“Although the regime almost immediately violated the Olympic Charter by banning women’s sports, the Taliban-controlled National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan (NOC) is still funded by the Chief Information Officer’s Olympic Solidarity Program,” Rezaei said.

Earlier this year, emails sent between the IOC and the National Olympic Committee confirmed that $56,000 (54,775 euros) from the Olympic Solidarity Program had been provided to the Taliban-controlled committee in Kabul, Rezaei said.

But it seems that the money never reached the athletes in Afghanistan for whom it was intended.

Before the Taliban came to power again last summer, the situation for the athletes was improving. They participate in the Olympic Games, but also in international and national championships.

Many sports are currently hiding in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power after the United States quickly pulled out its foreign forces, with some women reporting violence by the Taliban if they were caught participating in sporting activities.

anxious future

In October last year, the Taliban allegedly beheaded a young female volleyball player and posted pictures of her head on social media.

Mohjeeb Hakimi, a member of the Afghan youth volleyball team, was killed, his death was not disclosed, while his family members threatened not to speak.

Despite their promise to respect women’s rights, the Taliban rescinded many benefits, including closing most secondary schools for girls, preventing women from accessing various jobs, and preventing them from participating in sports.

Strict restrictions have affected the lives of women, and many of them have become very anxious and distrustful. Sports are just a way for women to get involved in a society that the country’s leaders no longer allow.

“Most sport leaders are just trying to secure their voice and this alliance that they have created, especially in the world of football. But we will not let them look at us. We are not giving up,” Bhopal specified.

The Afghan women’s volleyball team has called on international organizations to help him leave the country, but so far it has not been successful.

Last year, human rights lawyer and Olympian Nikki Dryden was part of the team that coordinated cross-border action and efforts to rescue as many Afghan athletes as possible.

“We have evacuated more than 50 athletes, including two Afghan Para Olympic athletes, after the participation of big names in the sports world,” Dryden said.

I asked for the support of the International Olympic Committee after the evacuation from Afghanistan. They did not accept,” she added.

Some of the athletes and their families have reached safe places, but others remain trapped in Afghanistan and are eager to leave.

Translation and editing by Miruna-Alexandra Obaciu from RFI’s English page

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