- George Wright
- BBC News
Two players from the Afghan national volleyball team said that their female teammates are fleeing from one place to another in Afghanistan, after the killing of a female player from the team last month.
The two players added to the BBC, that about 30 players hope to escape from Afghanistan, fearing for their lives.
Female players on the team resorted to clandestinely moving between Afghan provinces to escape the pursuit of the Taliban, who reclaimed power in Afghanistan last month.
Zahra Fayadi arrived in the UK about a month ago from Afghanistan. Zahra played on the Afghan women’s volleyball team for seven years before becoming a coach.
Zahra told the BBC that one of the team’s players had been killed, but added that the details were not clear at the moment.
“We don’t want this to happen to our players,” she warned. Zahra is still in touch with the team members, many of whom are still on the run.
Zahra said, “The players in the team had to leave their place of residence and move to other places in other states… and players burned their sports-related tools to protect themselves and their families. How much they live in terror!”
Zahra continued: “Many players have been threatened by relatives who are affiliated with or supportive of the Taliban.”
She told the BBC: “The Taliban demanded that the players’ families not allow them to play sports so that they would not be exposed to ‘unimaginable’ violence.”
Sofia, whose nickname is to protect the family in Afghanistan, was a prominent player on the Afghan volleyball team, and she was displaced to a neighboring country two years ago after she was stabbed by two men from Kabul.
Sofia says she had previously received threats from the Taliban to stop playing volleyball.
Sophias family destroyed all her medals and sports equipment that Sophia could not take with her when she ran away.
Sofia is still in contact with her teammates. She says that one of them was killed by a gunshot wound last month, although the circumstances of the killing are not clear.
“I am sure the Taliban was behind the killing,” Sofia says. “At that time the movement was controlling all the cities, and no other groups could do that.”
“She was just a player and did nothing for people to attack. We are all in shock. We couldn’t imagine it. We might lose other female teammates.”
Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan.
The first women’s volleyball team was established in Afghanistan nearly four decades ago, but the team was dissolved when the Taliban seized power in 1996, but the team returned to life after the movement was ousted from power in 2001.
With the return of the Taliban to power in mid-August /Last August, the lives of women athletes in Afghanistan were upended.
The movement has not yet passed any law on sports and women, but a senior official in the movement recently told local media that “exercise is not necessary for women”.
Last week, players from the women’s soccer team crossed the border into Pakistan, after weeks of hiding to escape the Taliban.
Earlier this month, female players from the Afghan cricket team told the BBC that they were in hiding, fearing for their lives.
Meanwhile, two girls were taken out of secondary school, and only male students and teachers were allowed to return to school.
Zahra and Sofia appealed to the International Olympic Committee and the International Volleyball Federation to help the Afghan women’s volleyball team to flee the country before it is too late.
A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee said the organization “has helped many male and female athletes in Afghanistan”.
A FIVB spokeswoman said: “Helping anyone from the volleyball family in Afghanistan is very sensitive, and in the interest of everyone’s privacy and safety, we will not reveal more details.”
Zahra and Sophia hope the Afghan women’s volleyball team will be reunited on the field, but there is little hope that this will happen in Afghanistan.
“We have fallen into a dark period,” says Zahra. “I don’t see a future for volleyball in Afghanistan. If we can evacuate the players, then we can see the team outside Afghanistan.”
“We lost everything in a day, but we want to get over it,” says Sophia. “We want the world to help us achieve the goals and hopes we pursued. This is our dream that we can’t escape from.”