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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Australia evacuates Afghan sportwomen

The Australian government has ensured the safe evacuation of Afghan sportwomen.

Dozens of sportswomen and athletes under threat in Afghanistan have been evacuated by the Australian government, the global football players’ union said on Tuesday.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August after a lightning offensive, Kabul airport has become the epicentre of a frantic scramble to flee the country.Many fear a return to the brutality of the Taliban regime of the 1990s that saw women confined to their homes and most entertainment banned, despite a pledge by the group’s representatives to respect progress made in women’s rights.Read More: What is wrong with the Taliban’s ideology?

Khalida Popal, the former national team captain of Afghanistan who helped with the evacuation for the sportswomen, said some had been beaten and heard gunshots as they fled. Popal tweeted a picture of the group huddled together in an aircraft, and another showing them walking on the tarmac with bags on their backs.

“The 75 players and some family members are out of Afghanistan,” she wrote.


“Sleepless nights, being on the call all the time answering questions. Handling media, motiving players to keep fighting & not give up even there were gunfires, they were beaten. Was tough.”

The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) said the evacuated Afghan sportswomen had been “in a position of danger” and “many athletes” were still at risk. A statement on FIFPro’s website expressed gratitude for the Australian government’s evacuation efforts.

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“These young women, both as athletes and activists, have been in a position of danger and on behalf of their peers around the world we thank the international community for coming to their aid,” FIFPro said in the statement.

FIFPro did not say what the final destination of the women was, although the union tweeted on Sunday that several countries and groups were involved.

“We are grateful for the assistance of governments, military and human rights groups who are collaborating closely with us to evacuate women footballers and other athletes from Afghanistan.”

Sports were viewed as a distraction from religious duties and tightly controlled during Taliban rule between 1996-2001, with women completely banned from taking part.

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© AFP with additional inputs from GVS