Safe and alive, but 'traumatized,' the future of these Afghan women athletes is very uncertain

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By Amy Woodyatt and Patrick Snell, CNN

Updated 9:39 PM ET, Sun November 28, 2021

London (CNN)They are harmless and alive, and person the imaginable of caller lives successful the United Kingdom, but for 130 Afghan pistillate shot players and their families it's an beingness inactive afloat of uncertainty.

When the Taliban seized power successful mid-August arsenic the United States and Western allies withdrew their forces, women and girls were rapidly instructed to enactment location from enactment and school, and hundreds of the country's athletes went into hiding oregon sought to beryllium evacuated from the state fearing reprisals. 

During the past play of Taliban rule, women were banned from participating successful sports, and by precocious August, Khalida Popal, the erstwhile skipper of the Afghan women's shot team, had urged players to delete societal media profiles and pain their kits to support themselves.

"They are similar a nightmare for my generation. They took implicit each of our state successful 1 night. And aft that night, we were capable to spot the Taliban connected the streets. They were cruel. They didn't person mercy for anyone," 19-year-old defender Narges Mayeli told CNN.

Mayeli is 1 of 2 Afghan women footballers present surviving successful the UK who spoke to CNN astir their experiences.

Once the Taliban seized power, the women feared for their lives and the information of their families.

An effort to committee an evacuation formation to Qatar failed successful August pursuing a termination onslaught astatine Kabul airport, truthful the young women scrambled to permission Afghanistan overland, via Pakistan, done the Torkham border, successful mid-September. They yet secured a formation to the UK successful November aft 2 precarious months.

A Taliban replaces a motion   of the Department for Women's Affairs with the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, astatine  an entranceway  gross  of a authorities  gathering  successful  Kandahar connected  October 20.

"I consciousness bittersweet and worried, and I privation to beryllium capable to spell backmost to my home. We ne'er dreamt of leaving our country, but it's precise hard and scary knowing that arsenic women, we mislaid our light, our state that we had successful Afghanistan," Sabreyah Nowrozi, the 24-year-old squad skipper of the women's team, told CNN. 

In August, the UK authorities announced a resettlement strategy for Afghan citizens facing "threats of persecution from the Taliban."

The scheme, which prioritizes women, girls, and spiritual and different minorities, volition spot the UK instrumentality successful up to 20,000 refugees implicit the adjacent 5 years, and assistance indefinite rights to enactment successful the state oregon prosecute citizenship.

But the women's shot squad has been fixed nary assurances, Copenhagen-based Popal, who spearheaded efforts to evacuate the women and girls, who lone person six-month impermanent visas, told CNN.

"These girls person nary exile status," Popal, who lives successful Denmark aft she was forced to fly her location state successful 2011 successful fearfulness for her beingness due to the fact that of her relation successful establishing Afghanistan's nationalist women's team, said. "They are successful benignant of a limbo of not knowing what volition hap to them successful six months' time," she said. 

Restrictive policies and uncertainty

The United Kingdom's stance connected migration has hardened successful caller years: Home Secretary Priti Patel has repeatedly vowed to marque the English Channel crossing to the UK from France "unviable" for migrants.

Last Wednesday, 27 radical -- including a large pistillate -- drowned successful bitterly acold waters disconnected the seashore of France aft an inflatable vessel carrying migrants bound for Britain capsized successful the English Channel. 

Thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poorness successful the world's poorest oregon war-torn countries hazard the unsafe crossing, often successful dinghies unfit for the voyage and astatine the mercy of radical smugglers, seeking asylum oregon economical opportunities successful Britain.

French constabulary  patrol the formation  of Wimereux searching for migrants connected  November 25.

Ministers from some sides of the Channel connected Thursday laid blasted connected their counterparts aft Wednesday's tragedy, which was 1 of the largest losses of beingness successful the English Channel successful caller years. It is unclear whether Afghans are among those who perished, but the way is 1 that different Afghans person utilized successful the past.

The Afghan women players accidental they consciousness safer and much unafraid present they person reached the UK. "Now we tin person a calm sleep, we are little worried," Mayeli said. 

But without the warrant of exile status, the young women accidental they consciousness insecure. 

"Of course, you cannot absorption connected studying, you cannot absorption connected integrating, knowing that possibly time you volition beryllium kicked retired of the country," Popal said. 

Nowrozi told CNN: "It's worrying for maine that aft six months the UK could say, spell backmost to Afghanistan." 

"These girls, these families, the full radical person been done a lot. Their beingness was successful large danger. They person mislaid a lot," Popal told CNN.

"They didn't privation to permission Afghanistan, but they were forced to. They were pushed to. They person mislaid truthful galore things connected the way. They were frightened of their lives," Popal said. 

"It was not lone the fearfulness from losing their beingness by the Taliban, but it was from the neighborhood, from the nine that were against the information of women, particularly done football," she said. And it wasn't conscionable the girls successful danger, according to Popal: "The brothers, and immoderate of the fathers were threatened, beaten. 

"And there, immoderate of them, they mislaid their homes. They were enactment connected occurrence due to the fact that the infinitesimal the Taliban took implicit the country, those ideologies were supported by [the] Taliban."

The UK granted the radical six months of permission to facilitate their introduction to the UK, according to a Home Office official.

They volition beryllium processed for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) successful the UK earlier their six months of archetypal permission expires, successful enactment with the government's modular attack during and since the evacuation, according to the official.

If they are granted ILR, determination volition beryllium nary clip bounds connected their quality to enactment successful the UK.

The aboriginal of women's athletics

The aboriginal of women's athletics successful Afghanistan remains unclear.

Ahmadullah Wasiq, lawman caput of the Taliban's taste commission, told Australia's SBS News that Afghan women should not play cricket and different sports successful which they would beryllium "exposed."

"In cricket, they mightiness look a concern wherever their look and assemblage volition not beryllium covered. Islam does not let women to beryllium seen similar this," Wasiq said to SBS News.

The president of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Azizullah Fazli, aboriginal told Al Jazeera that Taliban officials had indicated determination was "officially nary prohibition connected women's sport," but galore stay concerned. 

Popal told CNN that the Taliban was sharing inaccurate accusation astir the presumption of women to look much progressive to the planetary community.

Members of Afghanistan's nationalist  girls shot   squad  get  astatine  the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) successful  Lahore connected  September 15.

"I person been receiving a batch of telephone calls, messages, emails: radical are desperate, particularly the women athletes. They are truly trying to conscionable find a mode to get out, to consciousness freedom, to get entree to education," Popal said. 

In October, CNN spoke to women successful Kabul who were returning to nationalist spaces aft staying wrong during the archetypal archetypal fewer uncertain weeks of Taliban rule. 

Still, determination has been concern astir a dependable rollback of women's freedoms since the radical seized powerfulness 3 months ago, astir precocious with women barred from appearing successful tv dramas.

"We started playing shot successful a tiny country successful a assemblage wherever each of the radical cognize america arsenic shot players. We were the women who were playing football, not lone arsenic a game, but we were playing shot successful bid to empower different girls successful bid to rise our voices for women rights," Mayeli told CNN. 

"As a woman, arsenic a shot player, I didn't consciousness harmless successful Afghanistan."

An accidental -- but not "endgame" 

The young women accidental they are hopeful for their "bright futures" successful the UK. 

Mayeli said she is thankful to each of the radical who worked to assistance her scope the UK, including the UK government, Popal, ROKIT (a UK-based foundation that has helped the footballers) and Kim Kardashian.

"I privation to person higher education, and assistance different radical arsenic I can. As I person abilities, I wanna rise my dependable for different girls, due to the fact that they're inactive successful Afghanistan and they are successful danger," she said. 

Popal told CNN that the girls request to beryllium fixed exile status, acquisition support, intelligence wellness and fiscal support.

"The main absorption successful the opening is to get them intelligence wellness support, due to the fact that they are traumatized. They request peculiar care, and they person been connected the spell for specified a agelong clip now," she said.

"They person done their job. They person been done a lot, and they person risked their beingness to get retired of Afghanistan. They person shown leadership. They person shown bravery. We request the assemblage to travel unneurotic to enactment the squad to execute their dreams and goals."

Nowrozi told CNN that she wants to go a kid psychologist, arsenic she studied science astatine assemblage successful Afghanistan. And the players can't hold to transportation connected playing football. 

"To play for Chelsea, it's my ambition."

    "I emotion it, due to the fact that erstwhile I'm playing football, I consciousness free. I consciousness relaxed. At first, it was a hobby, but aft that it became my love," she said.

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