A group of teenage girls who were members of a youth development football team in Afghanistan have arrived safely in the UK on a charter flight from Pakistan organised by a New York-based rabbi and paid for by Kim Kardashian West.
More than 30 girls and young women aged between 13 and 19 flew into the UK on Thursday morning accompanied by their families, ending an epic and often fraught journey to safety since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. The teenagers and their families had faced being returned to Afghanistan whe temporary visas in Pakistan expired, where supporters said they were at risk from the Taliban due to their association with women’s sport.
The rescue effort was coordinated by former Afghanistan women’s captain Khalida Popal, who told the Associated Press: "Many of those families left their houses when the Taliban took over. Their houses were burnt down. Some of their family members were killed or taken by [the] Taliban. So the danger and the stress was very high, and that's why it was very important to move fast to get them outside Afghanistan."
The Afghanistan women’s national team has already been evacuated to Australia, while Portugal resettled the national youth girls’ team. The development team that arrived in the UK had initially tried to leave Kabul via the airport in the days after the Taliban takeover but were unable to do so, and instead crossed into Pakistan on temporary visas. They were granted UK visas last month, with their journey being supported by Rabbi Moshe Margaretten of the New York-based nonprofit Tzedek Association, who has been heavily involved in getting people safely out of Afghanistan.
"As the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, a time when righteous non-Jewish people stepped up to the plate to help save so many Jewish people, I know in my heart that we must be there for others in their time of need at a time when their very lives are at risk,” he told BBC News. Kardashian-West – who has worked with Margaretten on other causes – and her clothing company SKIMS covered the cost of the charter flight, while Leeds United Football Club chairman Andrea Radrizzani also supported the girls’ journey to the UK.
The teenagers and their families will spend 10 days in COVID-related quarantine before starting their new lives in the UK.