No future for women like me, says exiled Afghan footballer

No future for women like me, says exiled Afghan footballer

Afghan refugee Fanoos Basir, 25, a former player of the Afghan women’s national soccer team, poses in front of the Razay shelter in Piriac-sur-Mer after their evacuation from Afghanistan last week, France, Aug. 30, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahé

PIRIAC-SUR-MER, France—A former player of the Afghan women’s national soccer team, Fanoos Basir saw no future for himself under the Taliban rule.

She has fled and is now in a refugee reception center in France, mourning the life she left behind.

“We had many dreams for our country, for our future, for the future of women in Afghanistan,” she said outside the shelter, where she arrived after being evacuated from Kabul on a flight organized by France.

“This was our nightmare, that the Taliban would come and conquer all of Afghanistan,” she said. “There is no future for women…for now.”

The last time the Taliban led Afghanistan, women were not allowed to participate in sports or work outside the home, and had to cover themselves from head to toe in public.

The Islamist movement was ousted during the US-led invasion in 2001 but has again seized power 20 years later and forced a foreign military mission, leading to the evacuation of tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans. The last flights left on Monday.

By 2010, Basir had joined a young national football team that trained in a dilapidated stadium and began participating in tournaments abroad.

Photos of her during her playing days show Basir, in football uniforms, her head often uncovered, smiling and with her arms draped around her teammates.

Now that the Taliban is back, the national football team has come to a standstill. A large contingent of current players and staff were evacuated aboard an Australian military aircraft.

A former team captain urged players still in Afghanistan to burn their sports equipment and delete their social media accounts to avoid retaliation from the Taliban.

Basir, who is 25, stopped playing for the national team several years ago and has been running a women’s club ever since. She also worked as a civil engineer.

She said that when the Taliban captured the capital Kabul on August 15, she did not go out for days. When she went out, she wore a burqa that covered her face and body.

Besides women’s football is now out of the question, Basir said she had to give up her job.

Some Taliban officials have tried to portray the group as willing to allow women more freedoms than before now that they are back in power. But many Afghans fear this is a facade.

In some places, the Taliban have told women that they can only go out with a male guardian, which Basir says would mean taking her father or brother with her when she went to work.

Afghan refugees stand in front of the Razay reception center in Piriac-sur-Mer after their evacuation from Afghanistan last week, France, August 30, 2021.

Afghan refugees stand in front of the Razay reception center in Piriac-sur-Mer after their evacuation from Afghanistan last week, France, Aug. 30, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

She decided to try to leave with her vulnerable parents.

She spent three consecutive days unsuccessfully trying to get through the crowds of people gathered outside the Kabul airport. She described how Taliban fighters fired their guns and beat people with sticks.

When speaking to Taliban representatives, she said they said to her, “You’re a woman, we don’t want to talk to you.”

Basir said she and her family had given up hope of making it when they learned that the French embassy had organized buses to pick up people eligible for evacuation and take them to the airport. She and her parents were able to go to the airport and fly away.

They are now undergoing COVID-19 quarantine at the shelter, about 450 km (280 miles) west of Paris.

Eventually, she said, she hoped she could work as a civil engineer in her new home. But for now she felt she was in limbo.

“It’s so hard for anyone to leave our country, our dreams, everything,” she said. “Now we start from zero.”

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