Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said allegations of sexual harassment by members of the Afghan women’s football team were “shocking to all Afghans”.
In a closed address to the National Olympic Committee in Afghanistan, Ghani said he had ordered an investigation into the allegations, which were revealed in the British newspaper The Guardian on Friday.
“Even if mere allegations result in our people stop sending their sons and daughters to play sports, we must act immediately and comprehensively,” he said.
Afghan Prosecutor General Mohammad Farid Hamidi said he would announce the results of his investigation into allegations against Afghan Football Association officials within a week.
AFF General Secretary Sayed Alireza Aqazada firmly denied what he called baseless allegations. “No sexual harassment was committed against female soccer players,” he said on Saturday at a press conference in the Afghan capital.
However, team members speaking with The Guardian said abuse occurred in Afghanistan, including at Federation headquarters and a training camp in Jordan last February.
The Guardian reported that women players on the women’s team were harassed by senior officials from the AFF, including their president, Keramuddin Karim.
The international football association FIFA said it has a “zero tolerance policy” with regard to such violations and is looking into what it has described as “serious”.
FILE – Khalida Popal, the former captain of the Afghan women’s national team, is seen in Copenhagen on March 8, 2016.
A former team captain, Khalida Popal, who now lives in Denmark, spoke to media representatives about the alleged abuse she and her teammates have suffered.
She told the New York Times Tuesday that Keram sexually molested women in a bedroom behind his office and trapped them with a door so only he could open it.
Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012 but still works with the women’s team by organizing training camps outside of the country’s borders. She said when she organized a training camp in Jordan earlier this year, the Afghan association sent two men as custodians, both of whom sexually harassed team members.
She told several media outlets that she reported to Keram the abuse she heard about in Jordan and that the men responsible were being punished. Instead, she said, they were promoted.
Popal fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats and previously spoke about discrimination against women in their deeply conservative country.