Safe and alive, but ‘traumatized,’ the future of these Afghan women footballers is very uncertain

Throughout the last duration of Taliban guideline, females were prohibited from taking part in sports, and by late August, Khalida Popal, the previous captain of the Afghan females’s soccer group, had actually prompted gamers to erase social networks profiles and burn their sets to safeguard themselves.

“They are like a nightmare for my generation. They took over all of our country in one night. And after that night, we were able to see the Taliban on the streets. They were cruel. They didn’t have mercy for anyone,” 19-year-old protector Narges Mayeli informed CNN.

Mayeli is among 2 Afghan females footballers now residing in the UK who talked to CNN about their experiences.

Once the Taliban took power, the females feared for their lives and the security of their households.

An effort to board an evacuation flight to Qatar stopped working in August following a suicide attack at Kabul airport, so the girls rushed to leave Afghanistan overland, by means of Pakistan, through the Torkham border, in mid-September. They ultimately protected a flight to the UK in November after 2 precarious months.

A Taliban replaces a sign of the Department for Women's Affairs with the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, at an entrance gate of a government building in Kandahar on October 20.

“I feel sad and worried, and I want to be able to go back to my home. We never dreamt of leaving our country, but it’s very difficult and scary knowing that as women, we lost our light, our freedom that we had in Afghanistan,” Sabreyah Nowrozi, the 24-year-old group captain of the females’s group, informed CNN. 

In August, the UK federal government revealed a resettlement plan for Afghan people dealing with “threats of persecution from the Taliban.”

The plan, which focuses on females, ladies, and spiritual and other minorities, will see the UK take in approximately 20,000 refugees over the next 5 years, and grant indefinite rights to remain in the nation or pursue citizenship.

However the females’s football group has actually been provided no guarantees, Copenhagen-based Popal, who led efforts to leave the females and ladies, who just have six-month short-term visas, informed CNN.

“These girls have no refugee status,” Popal, who resides in Denmark after she was required to leave her house nation in 2011 in worry for her life due to the fact that of her function in developing Afghanistan’s nationwide females’s group, stated. “They are in kind of a limbo of not knowing what will happen to them in six months’ time,” she stated. 

Limiting policies and unpredictability

The UK’s position on migration has actually solidified recently: House Secretary Priti Patel has actually consistently sworn to make the English Channel crossing to the UK from France “unviable” for migrants.

Last Wednesday, 27 individuals — consisting of a pregnant lady — drowned in ice-cold waters off the coast of France after an inflatable boat bring migrants bound for Britain capsized in the English Channel. 

Countless refugees and migrants running away dispute, persecution and hardship on the planet’s poorest or war-torn nations run the risk of the hazardous crossing, frequently in rowboats unsuited for the trip and at the grace of individuals smugglers, looking for asylum or financial chances in Britain.

French police patrol the beach of Wimereux searching for migrants on November 25.

Ministers from both sides of the Channel on Thursday laid blame on their equivalents after Wednesday’s disaster, which was among the biggest deaths in the English Channel recently. It is uncertain whether Afghans are amongst those who died, however the path is one that other Afghans have actually utilized in the past.

The Afghan females gamers state they feel more secure and more protected now they have actually reached the UK. “Now we can have a calm sleep, we are less worried,” Mayeli stated. 

However without the warranty of refugee status, the girls state they feel insecure. 

“Of course, you cannot focus on studying, you cannot focus on integrating, knowing that maybe tomorrow you will be kicked out of the country,” Popal stated. 

Nowrozi informed CNN: “It’s worrying for me that after six months the UK could say, go back to Afghanistan.” 

“These girls, these families, the entire group have been through a lot. Their life was in great danger. They have lost a lot,” Popal informed CNN.

“They didn’t want to leave Afghanistan, but they were forced to. They were pushed to. They have lost so many things on the way. They were scared of their lives,” Popal stated. 

“It was not only the fear from losing their life by the Taliban, but it was from the neighborhood, from the society that were against the participation of women, especially through football,” she stated. And it wasn’t simply the ladies in risk, according to Popal: “The brothers, and some of the fathers were threatened, beaten. 

“And there, a few of them, they lost their houses. They were placed on fire due to the fact that the minute the Taliban took control of the nation, those ideologies were supported by [the] Taliban.”

The UK granted the group six months of leave to facilitate their entry to the UK, according to a Home Office official.

They will be processed for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK before their six months of initial leave expires, in line with the government’s standard approach during and since the evacuation, according to the official.

If they are granted ILR, there will be no time limit on their ability to stay in the UK.

The future of women’s sport

The future of women’s sport in Afghanistan remains unclear.

Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, told Australia’s SBS News that Afghan women should not play cricket and other sports in which they would be “exposed.”

“In cricket, they may deal with a circumstance where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not enable females to be seen like this,” Wasiq said to SBS News.

The chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Azizullah Fazli, later told Al Jazeera that Taliban officials had indicated there was “formally no restriction on females’s sport,” but many remain concerned. 

Popal told CNN that the Taliban was sharing inaccurate information about the status of women to seem more progressive to the international community.

Members of Afghanistan's national girls football team arrive at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore on September 15.

“I have actually been getting a great deal of call, messages, e-mails: individuals are desperate, specifically the females professional athletes. They are truly attempting to simply discover a method to go out, to feel liberty, to get access to education,” Popal said. 

In October, CNN spoke to women in Kabul who were returning to public spaces after staying inside during the initial first few uncertain weeks of Taliban rule. 
Still, there has been concern about a steady rollback of women’s freedoms since the group seized power three months ago, most recently with women barred from appearing in television dramas.

“We began playing football in a little location in a neighborhood where all of individuals understand us as football gamers. We were the females who were playing football, not just as a video game, however we were playing football in order to empower other ladies in order to raise our voices for females rights,” Mayeli told CNN. 

“As a female, as a football gamer, I didn’t feel safe in Afghanistan.”

An opportunity — but not “endgame” 

The young women say they are hopeful for their “brilliant futures” in the UK. 

Mayeli said she is thankful to all of the people who worked to help her reach the UK, including the UK government, Popal, ROKIT (a UK-based charity that has helped the footballers) and Kim Kardashian.

“I wish to have college, and assist other individuals as I can. As I have capabilities, I wanna raise my voice for other ladies, due to the fact that they’re still in Afghanistan and they remain in risk,” she said. 

Popal told CNN that the girls need to be given refugee status, education support, mental health and financial support.

“The primary focus in the start is to get them psychological health assistance, due to the fact that they are distressed. They require unique care, and they have actually been on the go for such a long time now,” she said.

“They have actually done their job. They have actually been through a lot, and they have actually risked their life to leave Afghanistan. They have actually revealed management. They have actually revealed bravery. We require the neighborhood to come together to support the group to attain their dreams and objectives.”

Nowrozi told CNN that she wants to become a child psychologist, as she studied psychology at university in Afghanistan. And the players can’t wait to carry on playing football. 

“To bet Chelsea, it’s my aspiration.”

“I enjoy it, due to the fact that when I’m playing football, I do not hesitate. I feel unwinded. Initially, it was a pastime, however after that it became my love,” she stated.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.