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Sunday, December 5, 2021

‘Sweet day’: Afghan sports women evacuated onboard Qatar flight from Kabul 


Qatar facilitated the evacuation of another group of Afghan women athletes.

Women footballers, basketball players and other athletes evacuated from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan onboard a Qatar Airways flight from Kabul on Wednesday. 

The athletes were among 369 passengers heading to Doha from the Afghan capital,  including more than 55 people who were evacuated in coordination with global football body FIFA, AFP reported. 

Evacuees expressed relief and optimism after fleeing the country, with one describing it a “sweet day for all of us.”

“Today is a very, very sweet day for all of us because after many, many weeks our trek starts and we are very happy,” basketball player Tahera Yousofi from Herat, who is heading to Canada from Doha, told AFP.

28-year-old Tahera is a member of the national basketball team who has previously participated in international competitions. However, since the Taliban takeover, such activities for women has become impossible.

“The Taliban government don’t let us play and don’t let us get a job and we have to vacate this country, unfortunately,” she said.

When the movement ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, sports activities were prohibited. Their return to power this year has raised concerns for athletes, in particular women who feel “at risk”.

Read also: FIFA, Qatar team up to evacuate ‘at risk’ Afghan football players

Most recently, Taliban militants reportedly beheaded Mahjubin Hakimi, a member of the Afghan women’s national volleyball team who played in the youth age group.

In an interview with the Persian Independent news outlet, Suraya Afzali, a volleyball team coach said only Mahjubin’s family know the exact time and manner of the incident. 

The attacks come despite the Taliban promising to preserve women’s rights and protect Afghans across society.

The latest Qatari flight from Kabul carried Afghan expat who were visiting their homeland before they were caught off guard by the rapid Taliban takeover.

Among the passengers were citizens from the United States, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan and others.

Qatar has been heavily involved in helping hundreds of Afghans and foreigners leave the country since the Taliban movement captured control and installed an interim government.

“The State of Qatar will continue to work with international partners on efforts that ensure freedom of movement in Afghanistan, including through serving as an active mediator between various parties,” the Qatari government said in a statement. 

“We remain focused on providing humanitarian aid to the country and are dedicated to promoting a stable and peaceful Afghanistan moving forward.”

Upon arrival in Qatar, passengers are taken to a designated accommodation compound where they are provided access to Covid-19 testing and medical facilities.

The Taliban has promised the international community it would not interfere with the departure of Afghans who hold valid visas and passports.

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