Afghanistan’s attorney general’s office has announced an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of female footballers at a training camp by staff from the country’s football federation including its president, Keramuddin Karim, following the .
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Jamshid Rasooli, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office (AGO), said: “This committee has been created after the Guardian newspaper published a report about abuse and sexual mistreatment against members of Afghanistan women’s football team. This committee will investigate the case and will seriously act, according to law, with people who are involved.”
The committee will consist of four people from the AGO and ministry of interior affairs. Mohammad Farid Hamidi, the Afghanistan attorney general, said: “A committee led by a deputy of the attorney general’s office [has] started their investigation. This investigation practically started [Sunday]. We asked for a list of all people, including players, who were in Jordan.”
The Guardian last week reported were sexually and physically abused by men from the football federation (AFF), including Keram. He has been contacted for comment.
The AFF said in a statement last week that it “vigorously rejects the false accusations made with regard to the AFF’s women’s national team”. It added that it has a “zero-tolerance policy towards any such type of behaviour”.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, meanwhile, has also reacted to the report. “Unfortunately, despite our achievements, international media have had some kind of allegations regarding the football federation which the Guardian newspaper and international TV stations have focused on.
“This is shocking for all the people of Afghanistan. No kind of disrespect against our boy and girl athletes is acceptable. I want the attorney general to investigate this thoroughly. I cannot tolerate immorality.”
At a press conference in Kabul last week Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada, general secretary of the AFF, implied that the players who have spoken publicly had been banished because of their refusal to wear the hijab.
He said: “The team was deployed to Jordan about one year ago and during that trip some [players] did not wear the hijab, so most of the people condemn that. This national team is representing an Islamic country and we should have respect for Islamic laws.
“After that trip we had only two options: one was to disband the team and the second was an Islamic team like other Islamic countries have. We selected the second one. But unfortunately some of the players did not want to wear the hijab. These allegations are just [an attempt] to remove the Islamic hijab. The Afghanistan football federation officially and strongly reject all allegations.”
He accused the Guardian of obsessing with the hijab. “The newspaper always focused on the hijab; in [the] previous government it also challenged [the] hijab issue in the country.”
The general secretary also denied that the sportswear company Hummel had cut ties with the team, saying the agreement “is a financial agreement and it is impossible to cancel a financial agreement because of baseless allegations”.
The Guardian has been sent a statement from Hummel’s press office. It read: “The main sponsor of the Afghan women’s national football team, Hummel, is immediately cancelling all sponsorship contracts with the Afghan Football Federation and calls for new leadership of the organisation.”
It added: “The decision was made after allegations of severe mental, physical and sexual abuse as well as documentation of new contracts stripping female players of basic human rights were presented to the company this week.”
The team captain, Shabnam Mobarez, told the Guardian last week that the use of the hijab was a way for the AFF to deflect attention from its accusation that they had been dropped for refusing to sign a contract which “silenced” them from raising complaints.
“Every time we have had success they would find a reason for why it’s wrong … ‘You should wear a hijab’, and things like that. My point is not the hijab here, I would love to wear the hijab if I could just represent my country. I’ve already done it,” she added. “When I made my debut with the national team I was wearing the hijab and I’ve always continued to wear the hijab. It has nothing to do with the hijab, it’s more about the loss of my human rights and rights as a player.”
Maryam Mehrzad, a member of a women’s team in Herat, in the west of the country, added: “Since I heard the report of abuse against women by the football federation I really feel better because we eventually have someone who has disclosed this fact, especially [as] a woman did this and disclosed this years-long secret in the federation.”