http://afghanistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_st/features/2018/12/11/feature-02
| Crime Justice

Afghans welcome government probe of sexual abuse in women's football

By Najibullah

Kabul football players warm up before playing Herat in a final in Kabul October 3, 2014. [AFP/Wakil Kohsar]

KABUL -- Afghan women are welcoming the government's swift action against several members of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) accused of physically and sexually abusing female members of the federation, including players.

Following the allegations, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) suspended AFF President Keramuddin Karim along with five other members of the federation, Fazel Fazly, an advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted December 8.

An investigation into the allegations will be spearheaded by the AGO and the Interior Ministry, the results of "which when completed will be shared with the general public", he said previously.

The Attorney General's Office has suspended Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) President Keramuddin Karim, shown in Kabul October 6, and five other AFF members while it investigates allegations of physical and sexual abuse against female players. [Afghanistan Football Federation/Facebook]

AGO spokesman Jamshid Rasooli December 9 confirmed the officials' suspension, which resulted from a recommendation by the investigative team handling the accusations.

The move was intended to enable a transparent investigation, he said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The AGO on December 1 formed a committee to investigate the issue headed by the Deputy Attorney General for Elimination of Violence against Women.

FIFA, football's international governing body, also said it was investigating the claims and working with the United Nations to ensure the safety of the players, The Guardian reported December 9.

Female players speak out

The accusations originally came from Khalida Popal, former head of the Afghan women's football team, who said the alleged abuses took place inside the AFF's headquarters in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan.

Popal said players told her about physical and sexual abuse, death threats and rape, The Guardian reported November 30.

"It was very difficult for us, living in the country, to talk about these things because these are very powerful guys," she said. "If a player from Afghanistan raised a voice, they can get killed."

Popal, who now lives in Denmark, fled Afghanistan in 2011 after receiving numerous death threats.

Several other former players and coaches have spoken to the media regarding the allegations.

The AFF said the allegations were "baseless and untrue" and pledged to co-operate with the investigation.

Karim, the suspended AFF president, said he was "really disappointed" by the accusations made by the female footballers.

"I am sorry that they made such remarks, which are difficult for them and for any other person to prove the allegations," he told TOLOnews. "Now the issue is legal, and we must follow it."

No tolerance for violence against women

Ghani, who called the allegations "shocking", said they "must be further investigated".

"There are comprehensive measures under way to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are sentenced to the most severe punishments, should these allegations be confirmed," he said December 4, a day after meeting with the attorney general.

"Afghans cannot tolerate such violent acts and violation of Afghan women's honour, and Afghan families should be confident and rest assured that their children will be safe whenever they go to play sports, to schools, to universities, or to any other establishments and functions," he said.

"Afghan women's dignity and honour are the dignity and honour of all the people of Afghanistan, and no forgiveness, deal or pardon is acceptable in this matter," he said.

Justice for women

Afghan citizens and women's rights activists praised the government's swift action and urged the AGO to earnestly pursue the matter.

"These [allegations] should be investigated," Lia Jawad Ghazanfar, a women's rights activist in Kabul, told Salaam Times December 6. "Similar allegations were made in the past. Yesterday we met with officials at the AGO, and they are very serious about this."

"The prosecutor told us that [they] are following up on this issue with fairness and that their investigation is ongoing," she said. "We told the AGO's office that women should not become victims and that this matter should be taken seriously and should not be handled politically."

Such allegations are a serious source of concern for Afghan women, said Roshan Mashal, a leading member of the Afghan Women's Network in Kabul.

"We welcome the formation of a truth finding group by the government," she told Salaam Times.

Past injustices in cases involving women's rights have caused women to lose confidence in the system, she explained. "We are therefore concerned and are asking this committee to investigate the matter thoroughly and with precision, and we want only transparency."

"We are planning to establish a monitoring committee from within civil society to monitor the progress made in this issue," Mashal said. "The reason is that we, as a women's rights advocacy organisation, are calling for such cases to be investigated with seriousness and transparency, so that justice can prevail."

The issue is "very important" to all Afghan woman and girls, said Humaira Rasooli, a law student at Ibn Sina University in Kabul.

"If this issue is not earnestly investigated, our families will no longer allow girls to participate in sports activities," she told Salaam Times.

"Allegations of moral corruption and misconduct in the Afghanistan Football Federation have damaged its reputation, and the only way out is to have the Attorney General's Office carefully and transparently examine the case and to clearly explain the results to the public," she said.

"We, the Afghan women, are following this issue very seriously and we hope that the president and the attorney general will make good on their promises and take necessary measures in order to prevent this from becoming a political issue," she said.

Government taking accusations seriously

The investigation is proceeding with precision and transparency, said Jamshid Rasooli, the AGO spokesman.

"The AGO did not wait for any order and took an initiative by tasking a committee to investigate the matter after becoming aware of this issue," he told Salaam Times.

"This shows that judicial and legal institutions are decisive and autonomous," he said. "The people of Afghanistan can rest assured that our legal and judiciary system is independent according to the law and will also act independently."

"We won't spare any efforts in this matter," he said.

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