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Afghanistan suspends soccer officials

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    Posted: 09-Dec-2018 at 2:26pm
Five officials with Afghanistan’s soccer federation, including its leader, have been suspended indefinitely after allegations surfaced that some officials had sexually abused female players, Afghan officials said Sunday.

Afghanistan Suspends Five Soccer Officials in Sex Abuse Scandal
Jamshid Rasuli, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the suspensions were ordered to prevent “violation of the investigative process,” although he did not explain what that meant. Those suspended included the Afghanistan Football Federation president, Keramuddin Keram, three other administrative officials and a coach in charge of goalies.

The suspensions came less than a week after the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, ordered a prompt investigation into accusations, first published in The Guardian newspaper, that Mr. Keram, other federation officials and coaches had physically and sexually abused and even raped players on the national women’s team. Mr. Ghani called the revelations “shocking to all Afghans.”

The other suspended officials included the federation’s deputy president, Yosuf Kargar; its general secretary, Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada; a coach in charge of goalies, Abdul Saboor Walizada; and an official in charge of liaison with provincial football teams, Nadir Alimi, according to the attorney general’s office.

The officials were all suspended without pay unless no charges are brought against them, although they were allowed to continue using their offices “because we have not received any official letter from attorney general’s office yet,” said Shafi Shadab, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s soccer federation.

After the claims of sex and physical abuse surfaced, FIFA, the world body regulating international soccer, started its own investigation, and the Danish sportswear company Hummel, the principal sponsor of the Afghan women’s team, canceled its sponsorship.

The accusations were focused on Mr. Keram, who as president of the Afghanistan Football Federation oversees both men’s and women’s soccer, as well as other male officials from the federation.

Khalida Popal, one of the original players on the women’s team and a longtime manager, said in a phone interview last week that Mr. Keram and some trainers had been sexually abusing players.

Ms. Popal accused Mr. Keram of sexually harassing players in a bedroom in his office which, she said, had been rigged so that it could be opened only from the inside with his fingerprint scan, and that he trapped women there.

“The president of A.F.F. and some trainers are raping and sexually harassing female players,” she said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Ms. Popal welcomed the suspension of officials in the football federation, writing in a Twitter post. “If we all stand together and raise our voice and become the #Voice4voiceless no one would be dare to hurt innocents.”

Ms. Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012 and obtained asylum in Denmark but has remained active with the national team.

Mina Ahmadi, a former women’s team player, said in a WhatsApp message: “I am really happy and proud that the Afghan justice system is doing the right thing that shows abuse and corruption will no longer be tolerated.”

“All the years these women have suffered and had to keep silent, and now finally their voices were heard,” she added. “This step brings hope to everyone that a fundamental change is happening and I think that it is the beginning of a greater future for our country.”

The Afghanistan Football Federation issued a statement on Tuesday calling the allegations “groundless” and saying it had “a zero-tolerance policy toward any type of such behavior.” It said no one had ever brought such accusations to its attention.

FIFA said it had long been aware of the allegations and was investigating them. “FIFA has a zero-tolerance policy on human rights violations and condemns all forms of gender-based violence,” the organization said in a statement. “The serious subjects mentioned are being looked into by FIFA.”

Mr. Keram is not a sportsman but is the politically powerful former governor of Panjshir Province and a one-time warlord.

Accusations of sexual abuse against male officials running women’s teams in Afghanistan are not new. In 2016, the head coach of the women’s national cycling team was accused by the team’s American founder and many of its members of repeatedly forcing its members to marry him and then divorcing them, as well as other offenses. The coach, Haji Abdul Sediq Seddiqi, was dismissed but never prosecuted.

Source: The New York Times
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