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Taliban behead junior volleyball player who was part of Afghan women’s national team: Report

KABUL: Taliban militants allegedly beheaded a member of the Afghan junior women's national volleyball team, a coach told the Persian Independent.

In an interview, coach Suraya Afzali (name changed) said a woman player named Mahjabin Hakimi was killed by the Taliban earlier in October, but nobody learnt about the gruesome murder as the insurgents had threatened her family not to talk about it.

Mahjabin played for the Kabul Municipality Volleyball Club before the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government, and was one of the club's star players. Then, a few days ago, pictures of what seemed to be her severed head and bloodied neck turned up on social media.

The coach of the Afghan women's national volleyball team said that only two of the team's players was able to escape from the country before the Taliban wrested complete control in August. Mahjabin Hakimi was among the many other unfortunate women sportspersons who were left behind.

Since their takeover, the Taliban have tried to identify and hunt down women athletes; the militants have been even more keenly on the look-out for members of the Afghan women's volleyball team, who competed in foreign and domestic competitions and appeared in media programs in the past, claimed Afzali.

"All the players of the volleyball team and the rest of the women athletes are in a bad situation and in despair and fear," Afzali told the Persian Independent. "Everyone has been forced to flee and live underground."

The Afghan national women's volleyball team was established in 1978 and has long been a beacon of hope and empowerment for young girls in the country. However, Mahjabin's death has fuelled fears of being targeted by the Taliban. Efforts by members of the team to gain the support of foreign organisations and countries to leave Afghanistan have so far been unsuccessful.

Last week, FIFA and the Qatar government successfully evacuated as many as 100 women footballers, including members of the national football team, and their family members from Afghanistan.

With the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan, all women's activities in the sports, political and social spheres have ceased. The vast majority of Afghan girls continue to be barred from attending secondary school.

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