Survival and Sisterhood in the Age of the Taliban | How To Academy

Tue, 18 June 2024

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm BST

Survival and Sisterhood in the Age of the Taliban

Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghan Women’s Football Team

Refugee, activist, and captain of the Afghanistan national football team, Khalida Popal tells the story of the extraordinary effort to save her teammates from the Taliban.

‘Riveting, heart-wrenching and incredibly important… an inspirational story for girls and women everywhere’ (Malala).

August, 2021: Kabul falls to the Taliban. Overnight, life for women across Afghanistan changes. The national women’s football team faces an imminent threat to their lives, just for playing sport.

For Khalida Popal, the team’s first captain and co-founder, this is not an unprecedented event. Born in Afghanistan, she fled Taliban rule as a child with her family and grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. On her return to Afghanistan, football gave her and her teammates power, comradeship and freedom. But advocating for women’s rights in sport put Popal’s life increasingly at risk, forcing her to flee the country, this time alone.

As a refugee in Denmark, Popal worked to uncover widespread sexual abuse of players by the former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation – forcing FIFA and the government of Afghanistan to act. When Kabul fell Khalida was safe, but her teammates are left behind. Against all the odds, she and a small but mighty network of allies orchestrated an international evacuation strategy to save them.

She joins us live in London to tell this incredible story.

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Khalida Popal

Footballer and Activist

Khalida Popal is a former captain of the Afghanistan National Women’s Football Team and played a pivotal role in establishing the team. She is also the founder and director of the Girl Power Organisation and holds the position of Program and Event Director for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. She serves as a Purpose Lead for the Right to Dream Organisation, is a member of the UNHCR Sport for Refugees Coalition, a regular public speaker, and mentors at the Women Sport Leadership Academy. Popal is a dedicated women’s rights activist and is passionate about greater inclusion and integration of refugees. She has been awarded numerous awards including the Leaders in Sport U40 Class of 2019 Award, the UEFA Equal Game Award and The Lantos Human Rights Prize which was presented by the Lantos Foundation.

Yasmine Ahmed

UK Director of Human Rights Watch

Yasmine Ahmed is UK Director of Human Rights Watch. She has two decades of experience as a public international lawyer, and human rights advocate. In her current role, she advocates for the United Kingdom’s foreign and domestic policies to be consistent with human rights. Yasmine is a well-known human rights commentator and regularly appears on the BBC, Sky, Times Radio, Al Jazeera and other broadcasters, and her comments have featured in the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, and the Washington Post.