Members of a women’s youth development football team in distressed Afghanistan arrived in Britain on Thursday after being flown from Pakistan with the help of Kim Kardashian West, a New York rabbi and English football club Leeds United.
The American socialite chartered a plane to carry more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in total. The flight landed at Stansted Airport near London and now the Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in Britain. Leeds United, the English Premier League club, has offered to support the players.
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As Kabul fell to Taliban terrorists in August, Britain and other nations hurried to rescue thousands of Afghans. Since then, many more migrants have crossed the border into neighbouring nations in the hopes of travelling to the West.
Women playing sports was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power and began curbing women’s education and freedoms.
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Following the Taliban takeover, Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team who has spearheaded evacuation efforts for female athletes, said she felt “so happy and so relieved” that the girls and women were out of danger.
“Many of those families left their houses when the Taliban took over. Their houses were burnt down,” Popal told the Associated Press. “Some of their family members were killed or taken by Taliban. So the danger and the stress was very high, and that’s why it was very important to move fast to get them outside Afghanistan.”
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Members of the development team, many of whom are from impoverished households in Pakistan’s provinces, were able to go to Pakistan and get visas to the United Kingdom. However, once the time restriction on their Pakistani visas expired, they were kept in limbo for weeks without a ticket out of the country.
The group’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, has worked with reality TV star Kardashian West on criminal justice reform in the U.S. He reached out to her to help pay for a chartered plane to the U.K.
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“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” Margaretten said.
Kardashian West’s spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIMs had chartered the flight.
With inputs from the Associated Press