'Don't forget the women of Afghanistan': Former Afghan football captain Khalida Popal speaks out on her country's fall to the Taliban

4 weeks ago 11
PR Distribution

(CNN)On August 15, Khalida Popal watched from Denmark arsenic her state fell into the grip of the Taliban.

Following astir 2 decades of conflict, the insurgent militant radical reclaimed Afghanistan's superior and took implicit the country's statesmanlike palace, hardly a period aft the US began the last withdrawal of subject troops from its longest moving war.

Earlier that day, ousted President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan to the UAE arsenic the Taliban broke done Kabul, and the US completed its evacuation of its embassy successful Afghanistan, lowering the American emblem astatine the diplomatic compound.

    In the past fewer days, images person emerged of radical clambering implicit 1 different astatine Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, trying to cling onto planes arsenic they permission the runway successful a hopeless effort to fly the country.

      With overseas governments flying retired their citizens first, they supply small anticipation to the Afghan radical to whom galore consciousness they beryllium extortion for helping them successful the 20-year conflict.

      "I consciousness dense successful my chest. I americium sad. I consciousness sleepless and it hurts," erstwhile Afghan shot subordinate Popal tells CNN Sport's Amanda Davies.

      "I conscionable privation my telephone to beryllium distant truthful I tin conscionable consciousness state successful my brain, but I cannot. I person been stuck with my telephone the past fewer weeks, watching the state collapsing, watching our enemies," she adds.

      'It's traumatizing for me'

      This isn't the archetypal representation Popal has of her state being threatened by overseas penetration and guerrilla warfare groups.

      In 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, aft they had invaded and occupied the state for 10 years.

      Seven years later, erstwhile Popal was 9 years old, the newly-formed Taliban seized Kabul and ruled Afghanistan for the adjacent half-decade.

      "It's traumatizing for maine and [...] my generation," she says. "Our puerility is repeating again, and the past is repeating again."

      Popal grew up   successful  Afghanistan during the Taliban's archetypal  reign from 1996 to 2001 and refers to that epoch  arsenic  a "very dark, scary time."

      During their rule, the Taliban declared the state the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, imposing strict laws connected women -- forced head-to-toe coverings, the prohibition of schoolhouse oregon enactment extracurricular the location and being banned from traveling alone.

      "It was precise dark, scary time. I retrieve my puerility astatine the property of eight, 9 years old, erstwhile Taliban took implicit the country, erstwhile they started [...] sidesplitting [...] and putting radical successful prison," Popal says.

      She says that, arsenic her household had been beaten by the Taliban -- immoderate "shot dead" -- they would unrecorded successful fear, "being truthful scared, sitting astatine home" and "waiting that, immoderate time, the doorway volition beryllium knocked and they volition beryllium taken."

      "I retrieve asking the questions due to the fact that I had truthful galore questions connected it arsenic each different kid, not knowing [...] the politics. Asking a batch of question, 'My father, wherefore don't they fto maine spell to school?' How astir if I privation [...] to play shot outside, if I privation to spell and conscionable my friends successful the street? Why? Why my ma is not allowed to spell to work?" Popal tells Davies.

      In the shadiness of the Taliban

      Popal says that aft the Taliban began to suffer its large strongholds with the penetration of US and conjugation forces successful 2001, she didn't expect them to instrumentality to power.

      "We were ne'er prepared," she says. "All the Afghan community, everybody is shocked.

      "Of course, Taliban has [...] ever existed. They person been warring for specified a agelong clip astir the borders, astir the agrarian areas of Afghanistan. There was ever threat."

      When Popal was 16 a fewer years later, she started to play shot successful the shadiness of the Taliban, who had prohibited women from taking portion successful sports oregon going to stadiums.

      Even though the radical had been expelled from power, they still waged war against conjugation forces and the US-backed Afghan government, and truthful had socio-political power successful immoderate parts of the country.

      In 2007, she founded the Afghan women's nationalist shot team and went connected to skipper her side, yet becoming the archetypal pistillate to beryllium employed by the Afghanistan Football Federation.

      However, arsenic Popal continued to talk out, her planetary beingness grew -- arsenic did the threats against her.

      In 2010, she decided to permission Kabul, making her mode to Pakistan and India, earlier yet uncovering asylum successful Denmark.

      "We had to escape," she says. "I retrieve similar going to this scary and unsafe mode [...] to a harmless spot to question extortion and unrecorded arsenic a exile successful Pakistan."

      'Our players are wholly helpless'

      Since then, Popal has continued to usage athletics arsenic a level for activism, launching the Girl Power Organisation successful 2014 to enactment refugees and migrants and advocating for women's rights astatine aggregate conferences for organizations specified arsenic FIFA, UEFA and the United Nations.

      "We person fixed truthful galore sacrifices successful the past 20 years of our beingness [...] to execute this collective, the pridefulness of representing our country, the ownership of representing the nationalist squad of Afghanistan," she says.

      "We utilized shot [...] to basal for our close arsenic women [...] but besides to beryllium the dependable for voiceless sisters that they were inactive surviving nether the authorities of Taliban," Popal adds. "We were pursuing the news, however they were stoned, however they were beaten, however they were beaten to death."

      "We stood up. We said, nary substance if you unopen our sister there, nary substance however galore of america being killed, we volition basal together. We are stronger. We volition not springiness up due to the fact that we had trust."

      Popal uses her sporting level    to advocator  for women's rights.

      Now, it seems the pridefulness Popal erstwhile felt successful representing Afghanistan connected the satellite signifier is but a fading memory.

      Instead, her caput is occupied with the thought of the pistillate footballers who are inactive stranded successful Afghanistan.

      "Our players are wholly helpless," Popal says. "We person truly fought truthful hard to gain the sanction [...] connected the jersey and the badge connected our thorax and deterioration the azygous of the nationalist squad and correspond our state successful an planetary level."

      "What hurts maine the astir is erstwhile I person been for the past fewer days, I person been calling them and telling them to pain down your uniform, effort to region thing that you person from the nationalist squad truthful they don't place if they travel to your house. Take down your societal media, effort to beryllium silent, effort to fell your identity, region your identity," she adds.

      'They should not beryllium forgotten similar this'

      For Popal, 1 of the top affectional setbacks of the past fewer decades has been entering the caller millennium "with a batch of large anticipation for the future," lone to extremity up feeling formed speech by the planetary community.

      "That clip I was a teen and my procreation and the caller procreation did everything imaginable to actively enactment successful [...] gathering the state [...] the community, the society, and besides being thankful, showing to the planetary committee, that your clip is not wasted successful our country," she says.

      "Everything was forgotten," Popal continues. "The planetary assemblage [...] entered our state with the words, with large sentences, words defending the close of women of Afghanistan, we volition not fto the women of Afghanistan to unrecorded successful acheronian of Taliban again."

      "We person done everything to beryllium portion of the maturation and advancement to besides correspond the caller representation of Afghanistan [...] of the beardown pistillate of Afghanistan, but present the satellite [has] forgotten us.

      "Thinking astir each idiosyncratic that I person been moving with -- I cognize them, my friends, my household members and each these astonishing women that has been portion of the maturation and advancement is successful the hands of [the] enemy, and without immoderate protection."

      Despite her affectional torment, Popal remains faithful to her state and the committedness of a amended tomorrow.

        "My connection to each [...] idiosyncratic and to organizations and to governments is that, conscionable don't hide the women of Afghanistan, they person done thing incorrect and they should not beryllium forgotten similar this, and they request support, they request protection," she says.

        "Please beryllium their voices, beryllium the dependable for those voiceless and helpless women successful the country."

        Read Entire Article