December 9, 2018
Afghanistan’s attorney general has suspended five officials of the Afghan Football Federation, including the president of the organization, following allegations of sexual abuse against members of the women’s national football team.
The suspensions came just days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the allegations that were first reported in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.
Ghani has said the allegations are “shocking to all Afghans.”
“The attorney general’s office has suspended . . . the president of the football federation, his deputy, the federation’s secretary general, the head of goalkeepers and the head of provincial coordinators,” Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesman for the attorney general, told the French news agency (AFP).
AFF Secretary-General Sayed Alireza Aqazada has strongly rejected what he said are baseless allegations. “No sexual harassment has been committed against any girl football player,” he said recently.
But team members who spoke to The Guardian said abuse took place inside Afghanistan, including at the federation’s headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February.
The Guardian reported that players on the women’s team were molested by senior figures associated with the AFF, including its president, Keramuddin Karim.
The international soccer federation, FIFA, said it has a “zero-tolerance policy” on such violations and is looking into the case, which it called “serious.”
A former team captain, Khalida Popal, who now lives in Denmark, has been talking to members of the media about the alleged abuse she and her teammates suffered.
She told the New York Times recently that Karim sexually harassed women in a bedroom behind his office, trapping them inside with a door rigged so only he could open it.
Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012, but she still works with the women’s team by organizing training camps outside the country’s borders. She said when she organized a training camp in Jordan earlier this year, the Afghan federation sent two men as chaperones, both of whom sexually harassed the team members.
She told several media outlets that she reported to Karim the abuse she heard about in Jordan and was told the men responsible would be punished. Instead, she said, they were promoted.
Popal fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats and has spoken out previously about the discrimination facing women in her deeply conservative country.