Thursday, October 21, 2021

Afghanistan girls soccer team granted asylum in Portugal

The girls of the Afghanistan national football team were worried. For weeks, they had been walking across the country, waiting for them to leave.

Some want to become a doctor, some want to be a film producer, some want to be an engineer. Everyone grows up and dreams of becoming a professional football player.

The message finally arrived early Sunday: A charter flight would take the girls and their families from Afghanistan—where they didn’t know. Buses taking them to the airport were already running.

“They left their home and left everything behind,” said Afghanistan women’s national team captain Farkhunda Muhtaz, who spent the past few weeks from her home in Canada communicating with the girls and helping arrange their rescue , told the Associated Press. “They don’t understand that they are out of Afghanistan.”

Since America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, 14-16 year old girls and their families have been trying to leave for fear of what their life might be like under the Taliban – not just because women and girls are allowed to play sports. but because they favored girls and active members of their communities.

They landed in Lisbon, Portugal late on Sunday evening.

In an interview with the AP this week, Muhtaz, members of the soccer team, some members of his family and football federation staff talked about his final days in Afghanistan, the international effort to save him, and the promise of his newfound independence.

The rescue mission, called Operation Soccer Balls, was coordinated with the Taliban through an international coalition of former US military and intelligence officials, US Sen. Chris Koons (D-Del.), US allies and humanitarian groups, Nick McKinley said. CIA and Air Force veteran who founded Dallas-based DeliverFund, a non-profit organization that provides safe housing for 50 Afghan families.

“It all had to happen very quickly. Our contact on the ground told us we had a window of about three hours,” McKinley said. “Time was of the essence.”

member of the Afghanistan national girls' soccer team
Members of the Afghanistan national girls’ football team are seen on September 21, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. (AP photo)

Operation Soccer Balls faced several setbacks, including several failed rescue attempts and a suicide bombing at Kabul airport by ISIS terrorists, rivals of the Taliban, that killed 169 Afghans and 13 American service members. That bombing happened during a tumultuous airlift in which the US military has admitted that it was coordinating somewhat with the Taliban.

Complaining was the size of the group in the rescue effort—80 people including 26 youth team members as well as adults and other children including infants.

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Robert McCreery, former congressman and White House official under President George W. Bush, who has served with special forces in Afghanistan and helped lead the effort to save the national girls’ soccer team, said Portugal had The girls and their families were given shelter.

“The world came together to help these girls and their families,” McCurry said. “These girls are truly the epitome of light for the world and humanity.”

The Taliban have tried to paint a new image by promising an apology to former opponents and saying they would form an inclusive government. Many Afghans do not trust those promises, fearing that the Taliban would quickly resort to the brutal tactics of their 1996–2001 regime, which included barring girls and women from schools and jobs.

This week, the Taliban set up a ministry for the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Evil” in the building that once housed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the latest sign that it is restricting women’s rights. .

As the girls moved from safehouse to safehouse, Mutaz, who is also a teacher, said she helped them stay calm through virtual exercise and yoga sessions and by giving them homework assignments, including writing autobiographies.

She said she could not share details about the rescue operation with the girls or their families and asked them to trust her and others “blindly”.

“His mental condition was deteriorating. Many of them were homesick. Many of them missed their friends in Kabul,” Muhtaz said. “He had unconditional faith. We have revived his soul.”

Some of the girls spoke to AP through an interpreter. He said he wanted to continue playing football—something he was urged not to do while in hiding—and hopes to meet football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United forward and Portugal native.

Vida Zemrai, goalkeeper and coach of the Afghanistan women’s national football team that moved to Sweden after the Taliban came to power in 1996, said she became emotional after saving the girls.

“They can dream now,” said Zamarai. “They can keep playing.”

by Alex Sanz

The Associated Press

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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