'Special day' for Afghan sportswomen who fled Taliban rule

Dozens of Afghan women athletes expressed relief and optimism as they fled Taliban rule on the latest flight out of Kabul

By AFP
October 20, 2021
This video frame grab taken from AFPTV shows a Qatar Airways flight heading to Doha on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul on October 20. — AFP

KABUL: Dozens of Afghan women athletes expressed relief and optimism as they fled Taliban rule on the latest flight out of Kabul Wednesday, saying it is a ''sweet day for all of us''.

The semi-regular flight to Doha, arranged by the Qatar government, has become a rare lifeline for Afghans with passports and visas since the Taliban took power in August.

Wednesday's flight of women athletes included 28 year old basketballer Tahera Yousofi from Herat, who is heading to Canada.

''Today is a very, very sweet day for all of us because after many, many weeks our trek starts and we are very, very happy,'' she told AFP.

She used to play and train regularly in Afghanistan and has competed internationally, but since the Taliban returned this has proved impossible.

''The Taliban government don't let us play and don't let us get a job and we have to vacate this country, unfortunately," she said.

Sports were banned when the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, and since their return women's freedoms have again been abruptly curtailed.

Flying alongside the athletes were expat Afghans who were visiting their homeland and were caught off guard by the speed of the Taliban victory.