Afghan FA abuse claims: pres­i­dent de­mands ‘thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion’

The Guardian Australia - - Sport - Suzanne Wrack and Akhtar Mo­ham­mad Makoii

Afghanistan’s at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has an­nounced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse of fe­male foot­ballers at a train­ing camp by staff from the coun­try’s foot­ball fed­er­a­tion in­clud­ing its pres­i­dent, Ker­a­mud­din Karim, fol­low­ing the Guardian’s re­port­ing of the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Jamshid Ra­sooli, a spokesman for the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice (AGO), said: “This com­mit­tee has been cre­ated af­ter the Guardian news­pa­per pub­lished a re­port about abuse and sex­ual mis­treat­ment against mem­bers of Afghanistan women’s foot­ball team. This com­mit­tee will in­ves­ti­gate the case and will se­ri­ously act, ac­cord­ing to law, with peo­ple who are in­volved.”

The com­mit­tee will con­sist of four peo­ple from the AGO and min­istry of in­te­rior af­fairs. Mo­ham­mad Farid Hamidi, the Afghanistan at­tor­ney gen­eral, said: “A com­mit­tee led by a deputy of the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice [has] started their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This in­ves­ti­ga­tion prac­ti­cally started [Sun­day]. We asked for a list of all peo­ple, in­clud­ing play­ers, who were in Jor­dan.”

The Guardian last week re­ported claims that mem­bers of the Afghanistan women’s team were sex­u­ally and phys­i­cally abused by men from the foot­ball fed­er­a­tion (AFF), in­clud­ing Keram. He has been con­tacted for com­ment.

The AFF said in a state­ment last week that it “vig­or­ously re­jects the false ac­cu­sa­tions made with re­gard to the AFF’s women’s na­tional team”. It added that it has a “zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy to­wards any such type of be­hav­iour”.

The Afghan pres­i­dent, Ashraf Ghani, mean­while, has also re­acted to the re­port. “Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite our achieve­ments, in­ter­na­tional me­dia have had some kind of al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing the foot­ball fed­er­a­tion which the Guardian news­pa­per and in­ter­na­tional TV sta­tions have fo­cused on.

“This is shock­ing for all the peo­ple of Afghanistan. No kind of dis­re­spect against our boy and girl ath­letes is ac­cept­able. I want the at­tor­ney gen­eral to in­ves­ti­gate this thor­oughly. I can­not tol­er­ate im­moral­ity.”

At a press con­fer­ence in Kabul last week Sayed Ali Reza Ag­haz­ada, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the AFF, im­plied that the play­ers who have spo­ken pub­licly had been ban­ished be­cause of their re­fusal to wear the hi­jab.

He said: “The team was de­ployed to Jor­dan about one year ago and dur­ing that trip some [play­ers] did not wear the hi­jab, so most of the peo­ple con­demn that. This na­tional team is rep­re­sent­ing an Is­lamic coun­try and we should have re­spect for Is­lamic laws.

“Af­ter that trip we had only two op­tions: one was to dis­band the team and the sec­ond was an Is­lamic team like other Is­lamic coun­tries have. We se­lected the sec­ond one. But un­for­tu­nately some of the play­ers did not want to wear the hi­jab. These al­le­ga­tions are just [an at­tempt] to re­move the Is­lamic hi­jab. The Afghanistan foot­ball fed­er­a­tion of­fi­cially and strongly re­ject all al­le­ga­tions.”

He ac­cused the Guardian of ob­sess­ing with the hi­jab. “The news­pa­per al­ways fo­cused on the hi­jab; in [the] pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment it also chal­lenged [the] hi­jab is­sue in the coun­try.”

The gen­eral sec­re­tary also de­nied that the sports­wear com­pany Hum­mel had cut ties with the team, say­ing the agree­ment “is a fi­nan­cial agree­ment and it is im­pos­si­ble to can­cel a fi­nan­cial agree­ment be­cause of base­less al­le­ga­tions”.

The Guardian has been sent a state­ment from Hum­mel’s press of­fice. It read: “The main spon­sor of the Afghan women’s na­tional foot­ball team, Hum­mel, is im­me­di­ately can­celling all spon­sor­ship con­tracts with the Afghan Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion and calls for new lead­er­ship of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

It added: “The de­ci­sion was made af­ter al­le­ga­tions of se­vere men­tal, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse as well as doc­u­men­ta­tion of new con­tracts strip­ping fe­male play­ers of ba­sic hu­man rights were pre­sented to the com­pany this week.”

The team cap­tain, Shab­nam Mo­barez, told the Guardian last week that the use of the hi­jab was a way for the AFF to de­flect at­ten­tion from its ac­cu­sa­tion that they had been dropped for re­fus­ing to sign a con­tract which “si­lenced” them from rais­ing com­plaints.

“Ev­ery time we have had suc­cess they would find a rea­son for why it’s wrong … ‘You should wear a hi­jab’, and things like that. My point is not the hi­jab here, I would love to wear the hi­jab if I could just rep­re­sent my coun­try. I’ve al­ready done it,” she added. “When I made my de­but with the na­tional team I was wear­ing the hi­jab and I’ve al­ways con­tin­ued to wear the hi­jab. It has noth­ing to do with the hi­jab, it’s more about the loss of my hu­man rights and rights as a player.”

Maryam Mehrzad, a mem­ber of a women’s team in Herat, in the west of the coun­try, added: “Since I heard the re­port of abuse against women by the foot­ball fed­er­a­tion I re­ally feel bet­ter be­cause we even­tu­ally have some­one who has dis­closed this fact, es­pe­cially [as] a woman did this and dis­closed this years-long se­cret in the fed­er­a­tion.”

Pho­to­graph: Rah­mat Gul/AP

The Afghan pres­i­dent, Ashraf Ghani, has said he ‘will not tol­er­ate’ im­moral­ity and has urged the at­tor­ney gen­eral to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­terthor­oughly’.

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