The story of Khalida Popal and the battle for women’s rights in Afghanistan

On this weekend’s episode of the National Diplomatic Podcast, host Ed O’Keefe and our special guests, former Afghan football captain Khalida Popal and journalist Madhav Sehgal, share their views on the front lines of Afghanistan’s war.

“We have to create a society that can live through war and through martyrdom,” says Popal, who played a vital role in Afghanistan’s historic first football World Cup in Germany in 1997. “It’s a time for the girls to stick together and stand up in the fight against the warlords, against the Taliban, and the terrorists and the occupiers.”

Khalida Popal also weighs in on the brutal abductions, beheadings and rapes that have become normal tactics in the Afghan conflict. Addressing the warped concept of the female hegemon in his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York this past month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani noted that “in countries such as ours where women are not trusted to attend school or have equal rights or are compelled to stay at home, the elite will carry out orders from their commander, don’t they?”

With nearly 30,000 members, the Afghan security forces represent approximately 75 percent of the Afghan military, despite their lagging pay, inadequate equipment and poor morale. “We don’t want to see the armies of Afghanistan collapse like we saw in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime,” Khalida Popal says.

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