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Women Today: Women Are Playing Today, and Leading Tomorrow

Abulfazl, who is now 24 and a medical doctor, played for the Afghanistan women’s national soccer team for nearly a decade.

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Hajar Abulfazl was a member of the women’s national soccer team in Afghanistan for nearly a decade. She used to sneak out of her house to play, in order to evade a disapproving uncle.

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Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

She did not understand his logic — she said she could not find anything in Islam that said girls play sports. Yet she couldn’t reason with her uncle: His point of view was ingrained in the patriarchal Afghan culture that existed even after the Taliban fell in 2001. In most families in Afghanistan, girls and women were expected to stay home to clean, cook, get married and have children, while sports were for men.

And that’s exactly why Abulfazl slipped out that window to play soccer.

“I wanted to use the power of sport to show the power of women to people,” she said in an interview last month in her office in downtown Washington. “I know the benefits of sports and people can’t hide their eyes to it. You…

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