They Will Not Break Us

Football is my safe space. I may not have always turned to it, but football has always been my safe space. To see this article over here at The Guardian of “Fifa examining claims of sexual and physical abuse on Afghanistan women’s team”, to read of the dreadful assault and harm done to players, and to have confirmed football is not their safe space, is harrowing.

I was considering whether or not to write a rant about what is going on, or whether to just share The Guardian’s article and allow that to do the talking. I came to the decision of this being a situation that must be talked about. Writing about football matches is all well and good, something I actually enjoy immensely. But this is something bigger than football. If there is abuse and mistreatment within our game, it must be talked about. Speaking about injustice and human rights violations within our game is more important than winning a grand final. People’s lives, livelihoods and souls are on the line here. It’s more than just football.

Sport being a safe-space must be a non-negotiable. To read of what has happened and is happening in Afghanistan to the Afghanistan national women’s team should send a fire in the belly of any sports lover. If we believe sport is for all, and that it should be a safe place, then we must rally here, get informed and be ready to support these women in any way possible.

 

So what’s going on?

Recently it came to light that key players within the Afghanistan women’s national team were asked to sign a contract that would limit their ability to be paid for playing, their ability to get sponsorship, and removed mediation processes in any possible disciplinary proceedings. Essentially the contract took away basic human rights and the rights of these players as women as Mobarez, the sides captain, stated in her tweet regarding the matter. The decision of Mobarez to not comply has resulted in the loss of her spot on the national team.

Now, it has come to light the violations against this side runs deeper than a contract.

Saturday morning Aussie time, The Guardian published their investigations on the issue, “Fifa examining claims of sexual and physical abuse on Afghanistan women’s team”. Look, please read that. Please. Here’s a break down of what was reported:

  • There are allegations that members of the Afghanistan national women’s team were sexually and physically abused by men from the country’s football federation, including its president, Keramuudin Karim.
  • The team’s sponsor has cut ties with the federation, confirmed over here
  • Abuse took play inside the country and at a training camp in Jordan last February.
  • Fifa are investigating the claims and are said to be working with the UN on some players’ safety
  • Allegations against these men and the AFF include physical abuse, sexual abuse, death threats and rape.
  • Players have been kicked off the national side, accused of being lesbians because some of them were going to talk to the media. (In Afghanistan there are significant and dangerous repercussions upon any accusation of homosexuality)
  • Findings of there being a bedroom inside Karim’s office, with a bed and fingerprint recognition on the doors, so players can’t get out without the president’s fingerprint.
  • The inhumane national team contract.

 

So what can we do?

Be informed and spread the message.

I know you probably will be thinking “millennial” at me right now, but seriously to share this story through social media is a massive. Yes we need to be talking about what is going on with our friends, both inside and out of sport. Most importantly we need to spread this story so it doesn’t get hushed away somewhere and forgotten. The last thing that can happen now is for the abuse of these women to be forgotten, pushed away and dealt with “on the down low”. The matter isn’t about a snotty child breaking someone’s window with a rock or wagging school. This is about systematic human rights abuse rife within a football organisation. It’s not some story to hush up or for us to leave at, “it’s too big, it’s beyond me, so let’s just let someone else care for it”. No. We fight. Even if that fight is to remain informed. Even if that fight is just sharing the article from The Guardian telling of the abuse.

I’ve learnt a few things whilst volunteering at Amnesty International. One of those things is to not stay silent in the face of human rights violations. This is a human rights violation. We can’t stay silent. We’re all privileged enough to have a voice. We need to find and use it to demand justice and to demand an end of the human right violations against this football team, and any other football team.

Change happens when people refuse to remain silent. 

“They will not break us” – Mina Ahmadi, Afghanistan Women’s Team National Player

 

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