London. Refugee in Denmark, former captain of the Afghan women’s team, Khaleda Popal, describes the situation the women have been living in in their country of origin since the Taliban took power as “heartbreaking”.
Bhopal, 34, who was granted asylum in Denmark in 2016, admitted she couldn’t sleep thinking about the danger to her compatriots still in Afghanistan.
According to her, there are already militants who go from house to house in search of the enemies of the regime, despite the promises of the Islamic group to work for reconciliation and tolerance with their opponents.
The family of Khaleda Bhopal, who lives in the western city of Herat, has already reported changes.
“Women in my family who are out have been told to go home, they must not go to school or they will be beaten,” says the former football player from Copenhagen.
Khaleda fears for the Afghan players, and sees football as a tool to fight for women’s rights. “I was one of the people who set up the team with the goal of staying together in Afghanistan.
We wanted to send a message to the world and to the Taliban: We (women) are not weak, you can kill our sisters, but we will show you that we are on their side.
“The players have girls who claimed on social media that the Taliban are the enemy. Now they see them armed in front of their doors and windows and they are afraid.”
Khaleda Bhopal describes the situation as “heartbreaking”. She says her players find it difficult to understand why the international community has abandoned them.
“When the players call me or send me voice messages, they say to me: ‘Why did we (the West) betray us? Why did the politicians abandon the women of Afghanistan? What did we do wrong?’”
Due to the denial of access to Kabul airport, it is unlikely that the footballers will be evacuated. “Currently, people who live in the country are moving from one place to another,” Bhopal says.
Bhopal remembers facing gender discrimination when she was in charge of the finances of the National Football League, with some men refusing to accept her salary because she was a woman.
But according to her, this is nothing compared to the lives of women under the Taliban regime, from 1996 until their expulsion after the September 11 attacks in the United States.
They announced on Tuesday that they would respect women’s rights and allow them to work and educate themselves, albeit under Islamic law. Empty and hollow words by Immortal Bhopal.
“If they follow Sharia, it will not give women any rights, whatever they may be. All the dreams you have will evaporate.”
For the former footballer, it’s hard to see history repeating itself two decades later. “I was a girl when the Taliban took power and they told me not to play in the street and not to go to school or I would end up with burns,” she recalls.
“When they started beating my father and threatening my family, we went to refugee camps in Pakistan.”