Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 21, 2021
World soccer’s governing body FIFA says a second group of 57 Afghan refugees linked to women’s soccer and basketball has been evacuated from Afghanistan to Qatar.
The group, comprising women and children, landed in Doha on October 20 on a Qatar Airways flight, FIFA said in a statement on October 21.
It thanked the Qatari government “for its support in facilitating extensive discussions and ensuring the safe passage of these individuals, deemed to have been at the highest risk.”
Last week, FIFA worked with Qatar’s government to evacuate almost 100 soccer players and their families from Afghanistan, including female players. Albania has also been collaborating with FIFA more recently to get endangered athletes out of Afghanistan.
Dozens of female athletes have managed to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of Kabul from the internationally recognized government in mid-August, with the refugees being accepted in Australia, Pakistan, Britain, Portugal, and elsewhere.
“I am also calling on all of our friends in governments and in the football community across the world to help us in obtaining residence permits and visas for the evacuees so that they can start a new life in safe and secure circumstances,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.
Under the Taliban’s brutal rule between 1996 and 2001, women and girls were not allowed to attend school or work or play sports.
The Taliban claims it plans to show more moderation than during its last reign, but the United Nations and rights groups have voiced concerns about the enforcement of severe restrictions on women.
The Taliban-led government hasn’t publicly stated its policy on the future of women’s sports, but a deputy head of the group’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said in September that Afghan women might not be allowed to play sports because their bodies would show during competitions.