A national volleyball player killing confirms the international community is at a crossroads in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan AfghanistanAfghanistan faces one of the most delicate transitions in its recent history. The rapidity with which, after two decades of armed struggle, the Taliban came to power in Kabul and with which the Islamic Republic collapsed, aggravated the vulnerability of an already very fragile institutional system, largely dependent on external resources.

The new political-institutional structure, whose stability the Taliban say they guarantee, is still being defined. The international community is at a crossroads: recognize the Taliban as an anti-isis partner or reject the Emir with all that entails. Human rights are once again at the debates’ center. It is clear to everyone that Islamic schoolchildren scoff at the promises made regarding the protection of women and respect for minorities. There are reports of horrendous crimes.

Yesterday the Persian Independent denounced the killing of a sportswoman. It is a player of the youth volleyball team of Afghanistan, Mahjubin Hakimi, beheaded by the Taliban in Kabul. According to Indian media, she is one of her coaches, identified for security reasons under the alias Suraya Afzali. The girl was probably killed in early October, but her family did not publish the news for fears of retaliation. Then, a few days ago, the photos of the player’s severed head arrived on social media.

At the time of the Ashraf Ghani’s government fall, Hakimi played in the Kabul Municipality Volleyball Club. Afzal revealed that since the coup last August, the Taliban tried to identify the athletes, especially those of the national volleyball team, who competed in international contests and appeared on TV in the past. Only two team members managed to flee before the Taliban took control of the capital.

In recent weeks, about thirty professionals from the Afghanistan national volleyball team had already expressed their fears of violence and acts of revenge by the Taliban for their sports careers, urging the international community to help them escape. In August, some teammates who managed to leave the Country reported the killing of another player with gunshots. Hakimi was among the many professionals left behind. Last week, Fifa and the Qatari government – the main responsible for this situation – successfully evacuated 100 female players from the Emir, including some within the national team and their families.

Inexplicably surprised by these events, the international community faces a fundamental political, ethical, practical dilemma, which it is struggling to deal with it. Of course, the protection of human rights has always been complicated, even under the Islamic Republic and due to the international community’s failure, which endorsed the binomial impunity-corruption. Still, the political and social space for women has already significantly reduced.

The advanced submission of the media accompanies the progressive denial of public space for women to government control and the significant reduction of the room for maneuver to exercise freedom of expression and opinion. The directives for the media, made official in September, are an unmistakable signal, like the violence deployed against some Afghan journalists.

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