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Afghan president orders probe into abuse of female athletes

Posted at 5:06 AM, Dec 04, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered Tuesday an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of female athletes, saying that any kind of misconduct against athletes, male or female, was unacceptable.

The development follows a Guardian report last Friday about sexual abuse of Afghan female soccer players. The report cited senior figures associated with the team as saying the abuse took place at the federation's headquarters in Kabul and at a training camp in Jordan last February.

The Guardian also cited Khalida Popal, a former head of women's soccer in the Afghanistan Football Federation who was forced to flee the country in 2016 and seek asylum in Denmark, as saying that her own investigation into such allegations found that physical and sexual abuse, death threats and rape were taking place.

Ghani described the report as "shocking to all Afghans," the presidential palace said. On Monday night, he met with officials from the Afghan National Olympic Committee, sportsmen and sportswomen, and pledged authorities would "conduct a thorough investigation into this."

Attorney General Farid Hamedi promised a transparent probe.

"I would like to assert in front of our athletes, the president and people of Afghanistan that we will proceed with this investigation transparently, justly and comprehensively," said Hamedi.

Sayed Alireza Aqazada, AFF's secretary-general, denied the allegations in the Guardian report, saying they were "all baseless and untrue."

Meanwhile, Hafizullah Wali Rahimi, president of Afghanistan's Olympic Committee, told local media that such allegations were not new and that there had been similar complaints in the past.

"Even if mere allegations (of abuse) cause our people to stop sending their sons and daughters to sports, we need to act immediately," said Ghani. "We have to have a framework in place to mitigate such incidents in our sports."