Afghanistan’s Khalida Popal: ‘Only Women Could Keep Their Hands Inside Their Bags’

Play Facebook Twitter Google Plus Embed Listen to Taliban speak about charges against Afghan’s soccer captain 1:23 autoplay autoplay Copy this code to your website or blog Afghanistan’s national soccer team captain, Khalida Popal,…

Afghanistan's Khalida Popal: 'Only Women Could Keep Their Hands Inside Their Bags'

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Afghanistan’s national soccer team captain, Khalida Popal, became a symbol of defiance for the country’s women following her detention by the Taliban for protesting for her right to play. “Only women could keep their hands inside their bags on flights. No one could touch them,” she said in an interview with America Tonight. “Women must organize and not just rely on men to make it in life.”

Popal has endured the Taliban’s persecution for 13 years. She fears her family may be at risk if they speak up. “Whenever we are married, they came after us and asked for money. If we don’t give it, they will take the girls and will sell them,” she said. “Any woman who does not accept their demands cannot keep her family as whole.”

Popal wanted to be her family’s sole breadwinner, she told America Tonight, to give support for her husband and children. With a fresh-faced look and commanding presence on the field, Popal was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year when she was detained in Afghanistan on charges of “anti-state activity.” The Taliban said it was attempting to remove an “illegal male.” Popal said she was kept in chains for several hours and tried to remind them that the Taliban rule was over. “I told them: you can destroy people like we destroyed everything, but you cannot destroy us,” she said.

Khalida Popal on NBC News ‘America Tonight’

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Former Afghan soccer star Khalida Popal—who was taken by the Taliban—is still in an Afghan hospital with injury. https://t.co/HlQ9ao6FRO pic.twitter.com/XzFvl5oMP0 — Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 6, 2016

— Virginia Hughes

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