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Afghanistan: The refugee turned sporting superstar and her fears for women under the Taliban
September 2, 2021
The Danish footballer Nadia Nadim, whose father was executed by the Taliban, says she does not believe the group’s promises to women and girls.
Nadim, who fled Afghanistan as a child and lived in a refugee camp in Denmark, told Sky News it has been upsetting watching her father’s killers return to power.
“It’s been heartbreaking to watch what’s happening in Afghanistan right now. Just because I felt we were over that stage, that was back in history and it would not repeat itself,” she said.
“I know what kind of rules they bring in and I know what that means for the future of the country, what that means for the development of the country, what it means for the women, and the girls. I think that’s a real step back. I feel very upset and sad for the people who live in the country.”
The 33 year old, who now plays for Racing Louisville, was born in Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city. When she was 11 the Taliban murdered her father. It took the family years to learn the truth, during which time they held on to the belief he may come home.
Nadim’s mother then fled the country with her five daughters – first through Pakistan with forged passports, before arriving in Denmark, where Nadia developed her love for football.
“My memories are divided into two parts. Before the war, I have very fond memories of the country, of our life, the safe environment. I had my mum and dad. And then I have the second part which is the war, and after my dad was killed.
“Those memories are not nice memories, a lot of chaos, a lot of just horror. At the end, things were made very hard for us as a family to function and to see a future or feel safe.”
Playing her way through top division clubs, in 2009 Nadim was selected to the national team but only after the Danish Football Association (DBU) had challenged FIFA rules on eligibility.
She has scored 38 goals in 98 appearances for Denmark, and last season helped French giants Paris Saint-Germain lift the Ligue 1 trophy.
Undoubtedly an inspiration to thousands of Afghan girls, Nadim is lost for words when asked what the future may hold for women’s football in Afghanistan.
“That’s a hard one. I don’t know what to say to them because I know they’re not going to have the opportunity. I don’t know whether girls will be able to go to school, to work. I want to say that people should try to keep their hopes up even though it really looks like a dark situation.”
Days after taking power, the Taliban promised that women in Afghanistan would have the right to work and be educated. But Nadim says she does not believe the group has changed.
“I don’t think so. I think they are the wolves that have disguised themselves as sheep right now and their true colours are going to come through. I don’t think their core values have changed and their core values was the reason me and my family left the country.
“I feel sad that politics is right now almost bigger than human lives. We don’t really think about the people who are suffering. My dad was killed by the Taliban, so I know what they stand for and what their values are.
“If you see what’s happening in airports and people trying to hang on planes and falling out of skies, no one would react that way if you weren’t scared.”
Last month Nadim announced fundraising efforts with Racing Louisville FC for girls and women in Afghanistan which saw $40,000 (£29,000) donated to UN Women and local resettlement organisations. She says she hopes it will help heal some of the hurt Afghanistan has gone through.
“I feel really powerless right now because I don’t know what I can do. What I’ve been doing is try to create awareness of the situation. And also try to fundraise some money with United Nations, Racing Louisville – my club – and then the Women’s Cup that was held here in Louisville.
“I love that people here are trying to help and the money is going to go to people who need it, especially women.”