‘Raise our voice’

5 Afghan soccer officials suspended amid allegations that they raped players

Secretary general of the Afghanistan football federation (AFF) Sayed Alireza Aqazada speaks during a press conference in Kabul on December 1, 2018. - Football's world governing body FIFA is looking in to claims of sexual and physical abuse on the Afghanistan national women's team, it confirmed in a statement on December 1. The AFF has 'vigorously' rejected claims. (NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Afghan government has suspended five officials within the country’s soccer federation — including the organization’s leader, Keramuddin Keram — following allegations that Keram and others sexually assaulted and raped players on the women’s national soccer team. Khalida Popal, a founding member and longtime manager of the national team, said last week that Keram had trapped and raped players in a bedroom in his office that could only be opened from the inside with a digital scan of his fingerprint. Other officials, she said, also tried to force themselves on players but were protected from consequences by Keram and others at the Afghan soccer federation when players spoke out about the abuse.

Afghan soccer federation deputy president Yosuf Kargur, general secretary Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada, goalie coach Abdul Saboor Walizada, and provincial team official Nadir Alimi were all suspended alongside Keram on Sunday — just a week after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the alleged crimes against the players.

Former Afghanistan women’s football captain Khalida Popal attends a training session in south London on March 30, 2018.
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the Afghan soccer federation denounced the accusations against the officials as “groundless” and claimed that no players had ever tried to tell the organization about the alleged abuse. In a statement, FIFA said that it had long been aware of the allegations made by the players, and that officials there are also conducting their own independent investigation into the claims.

Popal cheered the news of the suspensions on Twitter, writing that “if we all stand together and raise our voice and become the #Voice4voiceless no one would be dare to hurt innocents.”

In a WhatsApp message sent to The New York Times, former women’s national team player Mina Ahmadi said she was “really happy and proud that the Afghan justice system is doing the right thing that shows abuse and corruption will no longer be tolerated.”

“All the years these women have suffered and had to keep silent, and now finally their voices were heard,” she said. “This step brings hope to everyone that a fundamental change is happening and I think that it is the beginning of a greater future for our country.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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