PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Nearly two dozen female soccer players from Afghanistan have crossed into Pakistan along with their families, joining a growing number of prominent Afghan women and girls fleeing their country amid fears of repression under Taliban rule.
“We welcome Afghanistan Women football team,” Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Pakistan’s information minister, wrote in a message on Twitter early Wednesday, saying that team members had entered Pakistan at the Torkham border crossing using Pakistani visas.
Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team, posted a picture of the border crossing on Twitter early Wednesday, and wrote that with “great support I managed to get more than 79 youth female footballers & family members” out of Afghanistan. She did not immediately respond to a request for more detail on the evacuation effort.
When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, the group enforced a radical interpretation of Islamic law that forced women to wear burqas while preventing them from working, attending school or appearing in public without male chaperones. Since capturing the country last month, the Taliban has pledged to respect women’s rights, with the caveat that such rights do not contradict the group’s view of culture and religion.
In recent weeks, women have held demonstrations in Kabul and other cities to protest gender-based violence as well as their already-evaporating role i