The complicated and confusing story of the Taliban killing a volleyball player

The complicated and confusing story of the Taliban killing a volleyball player
The complicated and confusing story of the Taliban killing a volleyball player

On Thursday various Italian newspapers, news sites, politicians and commentators shared a news from Afghanistan: that of the death of a player of the Afghan youth volleyball team, Mahjubin Hakimi, beheaded by the Taliban in Kabul at the beginning of October. The news began to circulate a couple of days ago, initially reported by some Indian newspapers (many of which are not particularly reliable) and by the Farsi language version of the British newspaper. Independent.

On Thursday, however, some Afghan journalists questioned the initial reconstruction of the facts – as mentioned a lot also in Italy – especially regarding the date and circumstances of Hakimi’s death.

From the reconstructions available so far, the story still seems to be quite confusing, also due to the current situation in Afghanistan. In fact, since 15 August, the country has been ruled by the Taliban, who have imposed an extremely rigid and repressive regime and who have massively limited freedom of the press and expression: it is therefore difficult to obtain independent information, and the same people involved in the affair could not wanting to tell all the facts for fear of possible retaliation.

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The news of the killing of Mahjubin Hakimi seemed to have found initial confirmation in the article of theIndependent, who citing a source informed of the facts claimed that the volleyball player had been beheaded by the Taliban probably in early October in Kabul. Death, added theIndependent, had also been confirmed by one of Hakimi’s coaches, cited in the article under the pseudonym Suraya Afzali. The coach said that no one, apart from Hakimi’s family, knew how the girl was killed and added that the family themselves had not spread the news due to threats received from the Taliban.

The coach then said that since last August 15 the Taliban had tried to identify the athletes and searched their homes, and that only “two members of the team had managed to escape”.

The identity of either the team’s coach or the two athletes who fled was not disclosed, for safety reasons. One of the hypotheses that can be made starting from the information available – and which in any case remains a hypothesis, and must be taken with extreme caution – is that the two athletes who fled could be the same ones mentioned in an article by BBC last September 23: even in that article there was talk of a volleyball player killed, but his identity was not specified.

BBC had reported the testimony of two Afghan volleyball players who had fled their country and who had remained in contact with their former teammates: both, talking about the fear and risks that women and athletes ran throughout Afghanistan after the return of the Taliban, briefly reported the news of the killing of a former companion, which took place a month earlier, in mid-August: therefore two months before the date of Mahjubin Hakimi’s death indicated byIndependent.

One of the two interviewees, Zahra Fayazi, who recently arrived in the UK after the Taliban conquered Kabul, spoke of a female player who was killed saying that the details of her death were not clear. The other refugee player said she was “sure” it was the Taliban. Both had not mentioned names. It is not known if that player was Mahjubin Hakimi, but it cannot be ruled out.

– Read also: How are things with women’s education in Afghanistan

Another reconstruction that seems to suggest that Mahjubin Hakimi may have actually died in August, and not in October, is that of Mauro Berruto, former coach of the Italian national volleyball team and today head of sport for the PD, who after the taking of Kabul has collaborated in the expatriation of various sportsmen from Afghanistan.

On September 25, Berruto told on Facebook the story of an Afghan volleyball player who managed to escape from the country during the evacuation operations. At one point Berruto mentioned a teammate of this girl who, according to his reconstruction, had been killed because she was playing “volleyball without a hijab”.

After the news of Mahjubin Hakimi’s alleged beheading spread, Berruto told al Courier service to have heard the same girl who had managed to escape from Kabul, who confirmed that the volleyball player killed for playing “volleyball without a hijab” was Mahjubin Hakimi. Berruto added: «She was probably killed in the first half of August, before the capture of Kabul, but the news came out only now because the family had been threatened with retaliation by the Taliban. The circumstance of the beheading is not confirmed, but this changes little ».

New details emerged between Wednesday and Thursday that seem to confirm the hypothesis that Mahjubin Hakimi died in August, and not in September, although there is very little clarity about the circumstances.

One of the journalists who denied the news given by theIndependent it was Miraqa Popal, former director of the local TV Tolo News (a broadcaster that has a good reputation for its independence) and who is now a refugee in Albania. Miraqa Popal picked up the news of Hakimi’s killing

on Twitter that “it is not true” that the woman was killed in early October by the Taliban: Hakimi committed suicide ten days before the Taliban returned to the country, therefore in early August.

Matiullah Shirzad, director of the Afghan newspaper Aamaj News, he said Hakimi had died in unclear circumstances before the Taliban entered Kabul, so before August 15. Shirzad also said Hakimi’s family had confirmed the news.

The Italian agency To say, who spoke with Matiullah Shirzad, cites a document according to which the woman’s death occurred on the 22nd of the month of Mordad in the year 1400 in the Persian calendar, equivalent to August 13, 2021 (this is news that must be taken with caution, however, others reconstructions speak of a few days earlier). Shirzad called the news that Hakimi had been killed by the Taliban “baseless”.

Journalist Deepa Parent also denied the news of Hakimi’s death by beheading by the Taliban, saying she spoke to her family, judging it “misleading”.

Alt News, an Indian site that has reconstructed the news about Hakimi’s death, wrote that it had tracked down the Facebook page of the girl’s brother where there are several posts of condolence for the death of his sister, dating back to early August.

Alt News he also says he contacted another member of Hakimi’s family, who explained that the woman died on August 6 and that her body was found in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s home in Kabul. The family member added that the woman would have died of suffocation and that there is a suspicion that her boyfriend’s parents may have played a role in her death.

In summary: it is very difficult to reconstruct the news that Hakimi was beheaded by the Taliban. It can be said with certainty that she died – news also confirmed by the girl’s family – and it seems likely that it happened in August and not at the beginning of October, unlike what was reconstructed by theIndependent. On the other hand, there is no clarity on the circumstances of the death: while the teammate heard by Berruto and the coach speak of murder (but not expressly of beheading), some Afghan journalists have claimed it was suicide. Even the family did not want to disseminate precise information (perhaps for fear of retaliation): they limited themselves to ruling out the beheading, and then asked that it no longer be talked about.

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