Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said allegations of sexual harassment by members of the Afghan women's soccer team are 'shocking to all Afghans.'
In a closed-door address to Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee, Ghani said that he had ordered the investigation of the allegations, which were revealed Friday in Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
'Even if mere allegations cause our people to stop sending their sons and daughters to sports, we need to act immediately and comprehensively,' he said.
Afghan Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi has said he will announce within a week the results of his investigation into the accusations against officials of the Afghan Football Federation.
AFF Secretary General Sayed Alireza Aqazada strongly rejected what he said were baseless allegations. 'No sexual harassment has been committed against any girl football player,' he told a news conference Saturday in the Afghan capital.
But team members who spoke to The Guardian said abuse did take place inside Afghanistan, including at the federation's headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February.
The Guardian reported that players on the women's team were molested by senior figures associated with the AFF, including its president, Keramuddin Karim.
The international soccer federation, FIFA, said it has a 'zero-tolerance policy' on such violations and is looking into the case, which it called 'serious.'
A former team captain, Khalida Popal, who now lives in Denmark, has been talking to members of the media about the alleged abuse she and her teammates suffered.
She told the New York Times on Tuesday that Keram sexually harassed women in a bedroom behind his office, trapping them inside with a door rigged so only he could open it.
Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012, but she still works with the women's team by organizing training camps outside the country's borders. She said when she organized a training camp in Jordan earlier this year, the Afghan federation sent two men as chaperones, both of whom sexually harassed the team members.
She told several media outlets that she reported to Keram the abuse she heard about in Jordan and was told the men responsible would be punished. Instead, she said, they were promoted.
Popal fled Afghanistan after receiving death threats and has spoken out previously about the discrimination facing women in her deeply conservative country.