ISLAMABAD - Authorities in Afghanistan are investigating allegations that senior male officials have sexually and physically assaulted members of the national women's soccer team.
The attorney general's office in Kabul announced Saturday that it had created a high-powered committee to "thoroughly" probe the veracity of the reported accusations against officials of the Afghan Football Federation (AFF).
Britain's Guardian newspaper published an exclusive report Friday, saying players on the women's team had been molested by senior figures associated with the AFF, including its president, Keramuddin Karim.
Team members who spoke to the newspaper alleged the abuse had taken place inside Afghanistan, including at the federation's headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February.
AFF Secretary-General Sayed Alireza Aqazada strongly rejected what he said were baseless allegations and promised to "have a thorough investigation" to establish the facts. "No sexual harassment has been committed against any girl football player," he told a news conference in the Afghan capital on Saturday.
The international soccer federation, FIFA, said it had a "zero-tolerance policy" on such violations and was looking into the “serious" case in a "do no harm" way toward the alleged victims to establish the facts.
A former team captain, Khalida Popal, who lives outside the country, spoke to Afghanistan's TOLOnews on Saturday via Skype and discussed details of abuses her fellow team members allegedly suffered.
"The challenge that our players were always facing with was sexual harassment from officials, coaches and people who were coming at our exercises camps as representatives of AFF," TOLOnews quoted her as saying.
The Guardian also spoke to Popal, who fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats and has spoken out previously about the discrimination facing women in her deeply conservative country.