After burying their trophies, burning their jerseys and being turned away by household out of worry of the Taliban’s risk, members from Afghanistan’s Women’s National Soccer Team had been desperately left stranded in Kabul — bracing for an incoming militia that may punish them for partaking in athletics.
Like the a whole bunch of Afghan residents seen storming the gates of the Hamid Kurzai airport, ladies as younger as 16 belonging to the nationwide crew had been pressured to select between staying in Kabul and dealing with punishment, or discovering a approach into the airport to flee the Taliban.
The ladies’s outcries for assist from outdoors Hamid Kurzai reached Khalida Popal, a former captain of the nationwide crew that had been pressured to flee the nation over a decade in the past as a result of her contributions to the ladies’s crew.
Popal, at the moment taking refuge in Copenhagen, started receiving dozens of messages when the insurgents’ raid of the Afghan capital metropolis broke into the information. The feminine athletes had been begging Popal for an escape, unsure of learn how to attain ally forces.
In a harrowing account from the Washington Post, Popal detailed her makes an attempt to steer the ladies to security on the airport. Popal’s efforts got here hundreds of miles from the airport and with out dependable connection to the panicked ladies in Kabul hoping for a approach inside Hamid Kurzai.
Popal tried to ship audio messages in response to the frantic sounds delivered from inside Kabul. The retired captain desperately tried to maneuver the ladies to security via audio messages, additionally attempting to take care of composure within the midst of disaster.
“You need to focus. You need to help each other. We’re not giving up. There is one more step to the gate,” learn one of many transcripts from Popal’s messages.
Members of the Women’s National Team even contemplated suicide out of worry of being captured by the Taliban. One participant, 19, reached out to Popal, seen in a video message holding a weapon.
“If they come I will shoot myself in the head. I prefer to die than getting caught by them,” mentioned the younger lady.
Popal’s communication coordinated an try for quite a lot of the ladies to get into Hamid Kurzai; instructing them to traverse via sewage and Taliban verify factors. Some had been lucky to make their approach in, whereas others remained helpless. The ladies had been famished, dehydrated, sleep disadvantaged, captured and sexually harassed alongside the escape route. Leaving their households behind within the course of, among the ladies managed to reached Swedish assist on behalf of Popal’s coordination.
However, Popal was not alone within the endeavor. United States Lance Corporal Kareeem Nikoui, one of many casualties from the suicide bombing outdoors Hamid Kurzai, found among the ladies in communication with Popal and coordinated the escape of practically 86 Afghan gamers and their relations. Stranded members nonetheless left in Kabul stays unsure.
With tales of the tormented Afghan ladies reaching the International highlight, the United States’ National Women’s Soccer Team reached out with a letter of assist, calling on the U.S. authorities to help with the extraction of the ladies.
An excerpt from their letter learn:
“The women of Afghanistan’s National Soccer Team are being hunted, their lives threatened, all for being involved in the sport we love. They have fled their homes and were forced to erase all evidence of their lives and athletic progress because of their brave decision to promote gender equality through sports. While the U.S. continues to “stand with those who stood with [it],” all through this time, we hope that the safety of those ladies will likely be a precedence.
“These women are in Kabul and in the process of finishing their paperwork waiting on approval and transport to the United States. Despite the complications with the evacuation process, we ask that you grant humanitarian parole and immediate protection to the Afghan women soccer players that are in grave danger.”
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