AFGHAN SPORTS GIRLS — LIVES IN IMMINENT DANGER
By Vincent Lyn with Yvette Hoyle
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has raised grave concerns for the country’s female athletes. Now that Sharia Law has been enforced, imprisonment, torture, and executions of female athletes all throughout Afghanistan have become perilous whilst women have not only lost their freedom, sportswomen and activists are now fearing for their lives.
Twenty-one successful female athlete champions and their nuclear families who are Afghan refugees were forced to flee Afghanistan in February 2022, in fear of their lives from the Taliban, after being threatened with torture and imprisonment due to their love of sport for which in extreme cases girls are being killed. The sports girls are currently in Pakistan on temporary visas, while waiting for our Charity Foundation to secure asylum on their behalf. Their visas expire in less than 3 weeks, on August 17, 2022, at which point the girls will face repatriation to Afghanistan and consequently face imprisonment, torture, and possible execution by the Taliban. We are therefore requesting for the United Nations and any, and all state departments to assist with an urgent intervention to secure asylum in the United States or another country of stability that embraces women in sport.
Since the final day of withdrawal from Afghanistan of American and British troops on August 31, 2021, the world’s humanitarian target of promised asylum for Afghan refugees has fallen short of global targets. The United Nations agreed an approximate number of 275,000 Afghan refugees were to be offered the opportunity of asylum but less than half of that quota has been met. There is strong evidence of high value targets being left behind that are on the Taliban kill list, including young sports girls who not only have all rights of sport but who are living with an imminent threat to life. According to the UNHCR, the U.S government pledged to have taken 68,000 while the U.K 5,000 but according to sources on the ground the true number offered asylum is much lower. With the U.S having taken only 33,000 while the U.K government, pledged to offer 5,000 Afghans refugees’ asylum under the ACRS scheme set up in January 2022, but have taken a dismal 500 Afghans in 2022. In 2021 -2022 under the previous ARAP scheme 1,400. True figures for the ACRS are yet to be confirmed. According to UNHCR data, less that 1% of the refugees identified for asylum are resettled each year.
We request under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that these young talented women and their families are recognized for their right to life, liberty, and security of person. We are a coalition of small Charities based in the United Kingdom and the United States, working to safeguard and fund a small group of female athletes, children and their families who desperately need your help, to allow them to build a future on safe soil, in any country of stability, including the United States, knowing that the United States can be a place to call home and that the Government of the United States does not abandon the Afghan citizens to whom they promised asylum and a future. Or were American troops safeguarding Afghan citizens in vain? Given the gravity and the urgency of the situation, we ask the U.S Government to intervene with the Pakistan government to extend their visas whilst you investigate the possibility of asylum in the USA or neighboring countries.
The humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan deteriorated in 2021 with significant consequences for the most vulnerable among the population. Some 3.4 million people are currently displaced by conflict. UNHCR is responding to this emergency. In Iran and Pakistan, which are neighbors of Afghanistan, there are also 2 million registered Afghan refugees. The majority, of these refugees fled Afghanistan over the years, including from as early as 1979. A further 5.3 million refugees returned to Afghanistan in phases since 2002, but this trend has been declining in recent times. In August 2021, UNHCR also released a non-return advisory for Afghanistan, calling for a halt on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected.
Last updated 31 May 2022:
Registered Refugees from Afghanistan in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan (2,069,703).
Islamic Republic of Pakistan 31 May 2022 (1,282,901), Islamic Republic of Iran Oct 2020 (780,000), Tajikistan 31 Aug 2021 (6,775), Uzbekistan 30 Jun 2021 (14), Turkmenistan 30 Jun 2021 (13).
The girls seeking asylum are a team of female cyclists and their coaches, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Boxing team.
In late October 2021, a young female cyclist and volleyball player, Mahajbin Hakimi was beheaded for her love of sport. On January 13, 2022, the Taliban openly fired on vulnerable women in a car and shot a woman at a checkpoint. In November 2021, many young sports girls in Afghanistan were forced to go into hiding and to keep relocating, placing all, of their family members at risk. We have received many photos of tortured family members. These young sports girls were being hunted, detained, badly beaten, tortured, and in some cases killed by the Taliban, or accused of espionage with American “foreigners”, due to their known association with sport, noting that all Afghan women are forbidden to play sport under the distorted interpretation of Sharia law.
In December 2021 we began working with A.K.S. an established, recognized agency that have previously worked for the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom and NGOs to get the girls to safety. These women have the right to life, education, and sport, yet even their freedom of dress has been removed the girls and their families are all at imminent risk of death if returned to Afghanistan.
Partnering together, ‘We Can Save Children’ a non-profit organization based in the U.S working with local community-based organizations and ‘Help Children Now’ a U.K registered charity that is run entirely by unpaid skilled volunteers. Our missions are to support children’s mental well-being, physically and emotionally, as well as supporting children’s human rights to an education, globally.
To date, we have written to many prominent figures within the British government, including Rt Hon Home Secretary MP Priti Patel, Rt Hon Prime Minister MP Boris Johnson, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, and Lord Ahmad. To date, we have not received a satisfactory acknowledgement from the U.K Government. The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) appears ineffective for its purpose and has failed to deliver the quota promised for Afghan asylum seekers, let alone reach its pledged target of 20,000 over coming years. The U.K does appear to be on rolling failing schemes that require a full investigation into the lack of transparency of fulfilling Afghan refugee targets.
The young talented female cyclists have an invitation to participate in a race by The International Cycling Union (UCI) which will host the 2022 Afghanistan Women’s Road Championships in Switzerland on October 23, 2022, cycling through Switzerland to the United Kingdom. We would like to fulfill their dream and allow the girls entry to compete in the race wearing the flag of their new country of asylum.
Help Children Now founders Armand Assante, a Hollywood actor and land mine removal activist in conflict zones, and Ciro Orsini, an Italian businessman and entrepreneur based in the U.K have supported Romanian orphans and refugees in Zaatari Jordan. Since the war commenced in Ukraine, we have had operations on the ground assisting Ukrainian refugees in their evacuation and ongoing journeys to safety. To date, we have assisted over 400 Ukrainian refugees to new countries offering asylum headed up by our CEO Heath Donnelly.
We specifically request the help of the United Nations to help secure asylum in the United States or another county of arrangement. We have a small window of opportunity to assist these women before they are forced to return to Afghanistan to face a life of brutality. These young talented sports girls deserve the right too asylum and human dignity. We are deeply concerned for their future if returned to Afghanistan. They are likely to be found guilty of treason by the Taliban, for fleeing Afghanistan and playing sport, as women. They could face, like others, a possible imminent death sentence.
The girls have their full lives ahead of them and deserve to live in a country where sport and education is not a crime. We are pleading for help from the U.S authorities to act now before their visas expire and not to leave the girls to fate, suffering atrocities under the cruel harsh regime of the Taliban.
We have, to ask our governments hard questions if the western governments are pledging refugee asylum quotas. When are they going to be held accountable to meet the quota pledged? When will we see serious action and Afghan targets be fulfilled? We all recall the terrible scenes during the Afghanistan evacuation the crisis played out across our global news channels, months prior to the War in Ukraine. Yet again Afghan citizens like these young girls have been abandoned and failed, appallingly by our governments. They have a future and talent with their full lives ahead of them and deserve to be saved.
CEO & Founder of We Can Save Children
Deputy Ambassador of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations (ECOSOC)
Editor-in-Chief at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts
Communications & Affairs at Help Children Now Foundation
British Film Producer highlighting social issues that affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged globally.