Editorial– The stark revelations of Afghanistan women’s national football players sexual abuse at the hands of the president of the Afghanistan football federation, Keramuudin Karim has once again proved that both the government and its international partners active in the area of women empowerment failed to provide a conducive working environment to women athletes.
The story was first reported by the Guardian newspaper, where a national women football player Khalida Popal accused Keramuudin Karim of sexually harassing her and her teammates. Despite having enough resources, the mainstream local media utterly failed to cover and investigate the issue in its true essence until the same newspaper published another report with gruesome revelations featuring more women football players.
Although the unspeakable and inhuman action by the head of Afghanistan football association has stunned people across Afghanistan and the world, however, the incident speaks volumes of the vulnerability of the Afghan women, who brave all social and security threats continuing their active role in the development and well-being of the Afghan people.
It also reveals that despite massive investments by the Afghan government and international community in the domain of women empowerment and gender equality, women are still facing extensive problems and are exposed to any sort of violence. President Ashraf Ghani convened a closed-door meeting with the Olympic committee of Afghanistan and pledged to probe the sexual harassment case within a week. In the wake of the recent serious allegations, the government has imposed a travel ban on Kermuudin Karim which is a great step taken forward.
It is imperative to commend the bravery and support the Afghanistan women’s national football players, who in spite of grave threats to their lives spoke out about the horrors they experienced. However, now as a nation, it is our collective responsibility particularly of the Afghan civil society, Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan and the government to make sure that these victims receive justice and a zero-tolerance policy is implemented across government institutions.
The silence of the head of Afghan human rights commission Seema Samar about this gruesome act who misses no chance to speak about political bickering in the country is unacceptable. It has to pressure the Afghan government to make sure that the victims’ security is insured and by the same token they receive justice on time. The civil society of Afghanistan and the media should also raise this issue on various platforms and pressure the government particularly monitor the case proceedings with the Attorney General office of Afghanistan.
The victims already stated that they do not trust the government as Karim is a powerful person with massive political patronage while requested ‘Fifa and foreign governments active in Afghanistan to take action.’ This is a decisive moment for both the Afghan people and the government. If we all Afghan fail to pressure the government and the government fails to deliver justice it will be a big blow to the 18 years hard-earned trust of the families that allow their daughters to continue playing sport and work outside their homes.
Even if these are mere allegations, it has caused a panic among the Afghan people who may not allow sending their daughters to sports anymore. It is time for the government to act immediately and comprehensively by taking care of the victims’ and their families. An immediate inquiry should be kicked off to investigate this case to set an example so that in the future it remains a reminder that justice can be served effectively even if harsh. Failing to serve justice for these brave women would mean failing the nation and failing the future of our girls.