An Afghan national female soccer team and their relatives have crossed into Pakistan en route to Europe and the U.S., an official at the country’s soccer federation said, as local media reported they were fleeing from threats after the Taliban barred their participation in sports.
“There was a commitment which was given to them by the outgoing Americans” before they left Afghanistan last month, said Farasat Ali Shah, a director at the Pakistan Football Federation. “They are in the transit for Europe or America.”
Several female athletes, entrepreneurs and politicians have fled Afghanistan already, fearing reprisals from the Taliban and their ultra-orthodox interpretation of Islamic law. The militants have sought to project a more moderate face since they took power on Aug. 15, saying women would be allowed to work within the bounds of Shariah law. But their actions have been in dissonance from that stance.
Apart from barring women from playing sports, the militant group has also said they can only attend university if the classrooms are segregated and they are taught by female instructors.
The group has said that anyone who wants to leave Afghanistan and has valid travel documents is free to leave, but getting out of the country is complicated because Kabul’s main airport remains closed for civilian flights.
The soccer team entered neighboring Pakistan via the land route and have valid passports. They were issued Pakistani visas by the embassy in Kabul and with the permission of the Taliban government, Shah said.
Bilal Karimi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said he has no information on the matter and was seeking answers from those concerned.
“No coordination has been made in this respect with those responsible in the Islamic Emirate,” he said. “They would have left of their own will. We will check with the Olympic or sports authorities but they have gone of their own will,” he said of the soccer players.
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