The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) needs to act more swiftly on complaints and evidence brought by women players of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by leaders of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF), Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
As per HRW, the Afghanistan’s attorney general should ensure that all AFF officials apparently responsible for the sexual abuse of female players, as well as those accused of facilitating the abuse or covering it up, including senior members of the AFF, are subject to criminal investigation.
“The president of the Afghan Football Federation has been kicked out of football after FIFA’s Ethics Committee found him responsible for abuses,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “But a full test of FIFA’s human rights policy is whether sport is safe for women and girls in Afghanistan – and they won’t be safe until all abusers, including those who enabled crimes, are removed and protective systems for whistleblowing, justice, and remedy are in place.”
The coach of the Afghan women’s national team, Kelly Lindsey, wrote in an August letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino that the governing body has not addressed the “widespread culture of abuse” by “senior officials in ongoing positions of power” at the Afghan federation and “complicity at all levels of the AFF.”
Afghan women’s national football team was founded in 2011, and sexual assault and other abuses of female players, are reported to have taken place between 2013 and 2018.
FIFA was alerted to sexual and other abuses as early as April 2017, and eventually opened an investigation. Karim’s lifetime ban came after a FIFA investigation found him guilty of “having abused his position and sexually abused various female players, in violation of the FIFA code of ethics.”
The AFF’s general secretary, Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada, was suspended by the Attorney General’s office during an investigation but was elected to the regional governing executive committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Human Rights Watch wrote to FIFA for comment and asked the global football governing body to confirm that full and proper investigations are underway.
FIFA replied confirming that it is carefully looking into allegations that have been made against additional persons.
“The crisis in Afghan women’s football shows that abusers can get in the system and then there is no way women can access justice,” Khalida Popal, now the program director for the Afghan women’s football team, told Human Rights Watch.