Two former members of the Afghanistan women’s volleyball team have revealed that players from the team are hiding from the Taliban and that one of the players was killed last month. Almost 30 players are hoping to flee Afghanistan, claiming they fear for their lives.
To escape detection by the Taliban, who retook control of Afghanistan last month, several members of the squad have been travelling between provinces. After fleeing Iran, Zahra Fayazi arrived in the United Kingdom around a month ago. She was a member of the Afghan women’s volleyball team for seven years before becoming a coach.
Zahra keeps in touch with some of her former teammates, many of whom are still on the road. “To save themselves and their families, they even torched their sporting equipment.” They did not want them to keep any sports-related items. They’re terrified.
Sophia, who is using a pseudonym to protect her family in Afghanistan, was a key member of the volleyball team until she was attacked by two guys in Kabul two years ago and escaped to a neighbouring country.
She claimed she had previously received threats from the Taliban, telling her to cease playing volleyball.
Sophia keeps in touch with her former teammates on a regular basis. She also stated that one was killed last month, but she did not provide further specifics.
Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan. The first women’s national team was formed almost four decades ago, but it was disbanded after the Taliban took power in 1996 for five years. After the Taliban were overthrown by US-led forces in 2001, the team reformed. However, when the Taliban retook control of the country in mid-August, the lives of Afghanistan’s female athletes were turned upside down.
Zahra and Sophia have appealed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to help the volleyball team flee before it is too late. “The topic of assisting anyone from the Afghan volleyball family is extremely sensitive, and no further details will be released in order to respect the privacy and safety of all concerned,” a FIVB spokesman stated.