Afghan Women’s Soccer Team Accuses Officials of Sexual Abuse

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan authorities is investigating allegations that gamers on the ladies’s nationwide soccer workforce have been sexually and bodily abused by male coaches and officers, together with the pinnacle of the Afghan soccer federation, officers stated on Tuesday.

President Ashraf Ghani stated in a closed-door speech to the Afghanistan Nationwide Olympic Committee on Monday that he had ordered the investigation into the Afghanistan Soccer Federation in response to a report in The Guardian final week whose revelations he referred to as “stunning to all Afghans.”

FIFA, the world physique regulating worldwide soccer, is conducting its personal investigation.

The scandal has prompted the workforce’s principal sponsor, the Danish sportswear firm Hummel, to withdraw its help. “The documentation introduced to us just isn’t solely a sign of gross misconduct and abuse of energy by the A.F.F. officers, it’s in direct distinction to our values,” the corporate’s chief govt, Allan Vad Nielsen, stated in an announcement. “We have now no different alternative however to cancel the sponsorship.”

The accusations concentrate on Keramuddin Keram, the president of the Afghanistan Soccer Federation, which governs each males’s and girls’s soccer, in addition to different male officers from the federation.

Khalida Popal, one of many unique gamers on the ladies’s workforce and a longtime supervisor, stated Mr. Keram had sexually harassed gamers in a bed room in his workplace. She stated that the bed room had been rigged in order that it could possibly be opened solely from the within along with his fingerprint scan, and that he trapped girls there.

“The president of A.F.F. and a few trainers are raping and sexually harassing feminine gamers,” Ms. Popal stated in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Ms. Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012 and obtained asylum in Denmark however has remained lively with the nationwide workforce, organizing coaching camps overseas.

When she organized a coaching camp in Jordan in February of this yr, Ms. Popal stated, she was shocked that the Afghan federation despatched a male coach and a male official to chaperone the workforce. One of many males bought drunk and tried to pressure a few of the girls into having intercourse with him, together with contained in the women-only dormitory, and each of the lads sexually harassed workforce members, Ms. Popal stated.

When the gamers threatened to complain, Ms. Popal instructed The Guardian, Mr. Keram, a politically influential former governor of Panjshir Province, beat one in all them with a snooker cue, and threw her and eight different girls off the workforce, alleging they have been lesbians.

Hummel additionally centered on Mr. Keram. “Allegedly, the president was complicit in permitting the abuse to occur, and didn’t reply to the allegations put ahead by the nationwide workforce,” the corporate stated.

Ms. Popal stated that when she discovered in Jordan in regards to the abuse of gamers, the victims have been involved about conserving the whole lot quiet for worry that their dad and mom would cease them from taking part in on the workforce. She stated she had referred to as Mr. Keram to inform him in regards to the abuse.

“He promised that he would comply with the difficulty and punish the abusive trainers,” she stated. As an alternative, they have been promoted to different federation jobs, she added.

The Afghanistan Soccer Federation issued an announcement calling the allegations “groundless” and saying it had “a zero-tolerance coverage towards any kind of such conduct.”

It stated nobody had ever introduced such accusations to its consideration.

Mr. Keram didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark over 4 days. His chief of workers, Massoud Hassimi, stated Mr. Keram was nonetheless the federation president and that solely the primary doorways of the federation’s places of work required fingerprint scans to open.

The pinnacle coach of the Afghan girls’s workforce, Kelly Lindsey of the USA, expressed help for Ms. Popal and the gamers who’ve made the accusations. “Our Ladies have endured horrific Psychological, Bodily, and Sexual Abuse to play the game they love for the nation they love!” she wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Ghani didn’t announce any actions towards the soccer federation and didn’t say if he believed the accusations. “Even when mere allegations trigger our individuals to cease sending their little children to sports activities, we have to act instantly and comprehensively,” Mr. Ghani stated.

Legal professional Common Mohammad Farid Hamidi promised to announce the outcomes of his investigation inside per week.

“Rule of regulation and justice protects the rights and honor of athletes and households who ship their little children to pursue a career in sports activities,” Mr. Hamidi stated. (Mr. Hamidi himself was criticized in a latest report by the Particular Inspector Common for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a United States company, which stated he presided over an “unproductive, corrupt and patronage-laden workplace.”)

FIFA stated it had lengthy been conscious of the allegations and was investigating them. “FIFA has a zero-tolerance coverage on human rights violations and condemns all types of gender-based violence,” the group stated in an announcement. “The intense topics talked about are being regarded into by FIFA.”

Neither the FIFA assertion nor Afghan officers addressed calls from gamers and Hummel for the Afghan federation or Mr. Keram to be suspended. “As soon as the information are established, no matter remedial measures are wanted will probably be taken,” a FIFA spokesman stated.

Accusations of sexual abuse towards male officers working girls’s groups in Afghanistan should not new. In 2016, the pinnacle coach of the ladies’s nationwide biking workforce was accused by the workforce’s American founder and lots of of its members of repeatedly marrying and divorcing his riders, below duress, in addition to different offenses. The coach, Haji Abdul Sediq Seddiqi, was fired however by no means prosecuted.

The Afghan soccer federation claims to nonetheless have the backing of the ladies’s workforce. “It’s grateful for the vocal help of its present feminine gamers, who’ve all printed statements on the A.F.F. Fb web page,” it stated.

There was solely one such assertion of help on that Fb web page, and it didn’t point out the sexual abuse prices. It was from a former captain of the workforce, Farkhunda Muhtaj. The latest captain, Shabnam Mobarez, stop that publish final month, complaining that she couldn’t signal a contract with the federation as a result of it disadvantaged gamers of their rights — together with the suitable to complain.

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