More than 79 members of the Afghan women’s soccer team have arrived in Pakistan with their families, leaving Afghanistan as the Taliban begins to plan how it will govern the country following the U.S.’s troop withdrawal.
Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Pakistan’s minister for information and broadcasting, wrote in a tweet Tuesday that the country welcomed the Afghan women’s soccer team from the Torkham Border.
He said the women had valid Afghanistan passports and Pakistani visas.
We welcome Afghanistan Women football team they arrived at Torkham Border from Afghanistan,The players were in possession of valid Afg Passport, pak visa, They were received by Nouman Nadeem of PFF— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) September 14, 2021
Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team, announced in a tweet Tuesday that she helped evacuated more than 79 youth female soccer players and their families from Afghanistan.
I am happy to announce that once with the great support I managed to get more than 79 youth female footballers & family members out of Afg . This time I got the support from the great team @RoKitfoundation #SardarNavid and CEO of Rokit #SiuAnneGill #teamwork #Power of a voice pic.twitter.com/BeWdd4zaky— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal) September 14, 2021
A number of team members were evacuated to Australia last month.
The additional evacuations of Afghan female soccer players to Pakistan comes after advocates waged an international effort to pull members of the team, their family members and soccer federal staff from Afghanistan.
The coalition pushing for their evacuation was made up of former U.S. military and intelligence officials, congresspeople, U.S. allies, humanitarian groups and the captain of the Afghan women’s national team.
The effort, dubbed “Operation Soccer Balls,” was done in coordination with other countries with the hopes that the women would ultimately settle in the U.S., according to The Associated Press.
It is unclear if the recent evacuation to Pakistan was connected to the mission.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has frightened women, who are concerned that the insurgent group may return to a regime like it ran in the late 1990s that enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law and in effect restricted the rights of women.
While the Taliban has said it will respect women’s rights — as long as it is in line with the group’s perspective on culture and religion — many are concerned that the progress made in the past 20 years will be undone.
Most recently, the Taliban’s new minister of higher education said women will be allowed to study at university, but only in gender-segregated classrooms. They will also be required to abide by a strict dress code that includes hijabs.