In the first days of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, there have been good and bad updates from a federation that has made headlines in the last six months. On Saturday, June 8th FIFA concluded their investigation into the accusations of rape and sexual assault made by players for the Afghanistan WNT against the federation’s President, Keramuudin Karim. This announcement comes only a few days after the Guardian published an article saying that FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation knew about accusations of assault as early as April 2017 and that the Afghan federation paid off the accusers to keep them quiet.
The accusations of rape and sexual assault within the Afghanistan federation first came to light in November 2018. Suzanne Wrack, who has done the best reporting on this story amongst Western journalists, wrote an exclusive story including interviews with the players who had been assaulted. The tales were disturbing. They spoke of a bedroom inside his office that relies on fingerprint technology to open and close, so that players were trapped once the president had lured them in there. When the players tried to talk to their federation, they were met with aggressive denial.
FIFA announced they were opening an investigation, but I think many of us believed the investigation would not wield good results. To the contrary, FIFA announced on Saturday morning that President Karim has been issued a lifetime ban from FIFA and he will be fined over $1 million. They found him guilty of abusing his position and abusing female players. Khalida Popal, the director of the Afghanistan WNT, said on Twitter that this was a success, but now they are looking for the coaches and General Secretary of the Afghanistan federation to receive similar bans.
First step made success. But we are not done yet we need to coaches and the General Secratery of @theaffofficial to be ban from Football. Football is not a place for abuse we shouldn't let the abuse culture in Football. Women should be protected in System. @AfghanistanWnt pic.twitter.com/mlQEkuyRRz— Khalida Popal (@khalida_popal) June 8, 2019
The decision from FIFA is a good first step. But it comes just days after the Guardian revealed that both the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA knew about accusations of abuse as early as April 2017. This differs from what FIFA and AFC officials had said in the past. The article also says that President Karim and others were involved in paying off five girls who launched a sexual assault case in July/August 2017. Four of those five girls were minors.
FIFA still has a long way to go when it comes to challenging abuse in both men’s and women’s football. The punishment handed down to President Karim is a good sign that FIFA is engaged. Hopefully they continue to take the necessary steps to ensure accountability and safety for players around the world.