“FIFA has taken an important first step toward justice for those affected by individuals within the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF). However, the lifetime ban and fine instituted today for the President of the AFF is not enough as it has been reported on multiple occasions that sexual harassment and abuse were widespread within AFF. All those involved, and those complicit in condoning or covering up this terrible abuse, must also be held fully accountable and punished.
“It is our belief that the CHF 1 million fine imposed on the AFF President must be directed to the holistic support of the women and their families who have been affected by these unconscionable actions. They must also receive continued and appropriate protection from further persecution, intimidation and violence.
“The rehabilitation of football in Afghanistan must be made the highest priority, but this will not be possible while these individuals remain in power. The Afghanistan Attorney General’s Office has launched a concurrent investigation into the allegations, and enforced an international travel ban on the AFF President and four additional members of his staff while they pursue the case. Yet neither FIFA nor AFC have yet to open an investigation into these additional individuals. In a shocking display of gross negligence, one of them, the AFF Secretary General, passed a FIFA background check, and was elected an AFC Executive Committee Member on April 6. This is unacceptable.
“Women and girls around the world must have the right to participate in football in a safe environment, free from any exploitation, harassment, coercive control or sexual abuse. The AFF scandal is not an isolated case but highlights a systemic crisis. All football governing bodies and their member associations that either violate safeguarding codes or fail to uphold policies regarding sexual harassment and abuse must be dealt the most serious sanctions by FIFA. All individuals who engage in such behaviour, regardless of seniority or position, must be investigated and punished without delay.
“Simply put, we cannot allow this to happen again. Imposing lifetime bans and financial penalties is an important first step and we commend FIFA for these actions, but the longer and stronger battle for justice is in ensuring perpetrators of sexual harassment and abuse are completely rooted out so football is a place where anybody can play the game in freedom and without fear. Thank you to those women inside and outside Afghanistan who bravely came forward and shared their harrowing stories. They deserve our full support and encouragement on their path forward.”
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