By Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers called on FIFA to recognize the exiled Afghanistan women’s soccer team, in a letter sent to the sport’s international governing body on Friday.
The team has been playing in exile in Australia since the Taliban took control of the Afghan government in August 2021, causing many prominent women to flee the country for fear of persecution.
The Taliban went on to drastically limit women’s freedoms and rights, including banning women and girls from the country’s education system, in what the U.N. has said could amount to a crime against humanity.
Led by the co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus – Republican Representatives Don Bacon and Darin LaHood, and Representatives Kathy Castor and Rick Larsen, both Democrats – the group called on FIFA to “allow the AWT (Afghanistan women’s team) to represent every woman and girl trapped under Taliban rule… if not for the future of the beautiful game, then for the important message it sends to women and girls around the world.”
The Afghan women’s team launched a petition at the end of July, calling on FIFA to recognize them as representatives of their country. The Afghan men’s team continues to be recognized by the organization.
The letter comes as the FIFA Women’s World Cup enters its final weeks, the highest attended in the organization’s history.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra)