Women’s football team from Afghanistan arrives in Pakistan

Women’s football team from Afghanistan arrives in Pakistan
The footballers are believed to have been given emergency humanitarian visas

Women who play for Afghanistan’s football team and their families are reported to have safely entered Pakistan after escaping the nation in the wake of the Taliban’s invasion.

Pakistan’s English-language newspaperThe Dawn said the footballers were given emergency humanitarian visas.

It comes after an investigation by The Independent, published on Monday, which revealed Pakistan would allow dozens of young players from the Afghan girls national youth football team trapped in hiding in Afghanistan to enter the country.

A letter from the embassy of Pakistan, seen by The Independent, said it would grant temporary visas to the 32 girls who were stranded in the neighbouring country.

Richard Hillgrove, a spokesperson who represents the NGO Football for Peace, said he believes the football players The Dawn has referenced are the same girls who The Independent previously reported on.

Fawad Chaudhry, who is Pakistan’s information minister, said the players went into Pakistan at the northwestern Torkham border crossing, with documents proving their right to travel.

“We welcome Afghanistan women football team,” Mr Chaudhry wrote on Twitter.

It is not clear how many football players and relatives were permitted to go into Pakistan.

It comes after The Independent revealed in early September that 32 girls from the national football team were stranded in Afghanistan. A letter urged Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, to give the girls and their families temporary visas to enable them to enter Pakistan, warning “time is running out” and the girls were at risk of “grave threats” from the Taliban and “disintegrating security”.

Campaigners said the young women, many of whom are in their teens, were in hiding as reports surfaced of the Taliban searching hotels in a bid to track them down.

“These teenage and young female athletes are at immediate risk because of their association with women’s football in Afghanistan and their participation in national public football tournaments,” states the letter, which was signed by Kashif Siddiqi, a London-born footballer who played for Pakistan’s international team and who co-founded Football for Peace.

While the Taliban has not issued a statement on the players’ departure from Afghanistan, an official confirmed, under the government’s interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to play any sports where they could possibly be exposed.

Last week, the Taliban announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan filled with veterans of their hardline rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the US-led coalition.

Additional reporting by Associated Press


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