Denmark paid for civilian deaths in Afghanistan

The Danish military systematically provided financial compensation after killing and wounding civilians in Afghanistan, newly obtained documents have revealed.

Denmark paid for civilian deaths in Afghanistan
The chief of defence said the payments help relations with local communities. Photo: Colourbox
Danish soldiers killed at least 18 civilians during Denmark’s extended military engagement in Afghanistan, Information newspaper reported over the weekend. 
Thanks to a freedom of information request, the newspaper obtained documents from Defence Command Denmark (Forsvaret) and the Military Prosecution Service (Forsvarets Auditørkorps) revealing that Denmark systematically paid compensation to the families of civilians killed or injured by Danish troops. 
On Monday, Metroxpress published the details of nine such instances of compensation, ranging from a 1,500 kroner ($250) payout to a man struck in the face by a Danish bullet in 2009 to 267,050 kroner ($40,000) paid to survivors after Danish troops killed five civilians, including two children, and injured four in 2010. 
In another instance, Denmark paid just 11,500 kroner in compensation for the death of a little girl. The death of a father of eight, meanwhile, resulted in a 55,000 kroner payout. 
Chief of Defence Peter Bartram stressed to Metroxpress that the compensation payments were voluntary and not an admission of legal responsibility for the deaths or injuries. 
“When there is no judicial compensation responsibility, there can be situations in which one out of a consideration for fairness will take a look at whether there is something to be done that will have a positive effect in the areas in which Danish soldiers are stationed and can help to increase security,” Bartram said. 
Captain Mads Silberg, who was responsible for Danish troops’ relations with the civilian population during his time in Afghanistan, said that the payouts were the right thing to do.
“We paid out a lot of compensation. It was only fair because there were a lot of injuries. It’s well known that we fired quite a lot of shots while we were there,” Silberg told Information. 
The Defence Ministry declined to reveal the total amount of money paid out by Denmark in compensation for deaths and injuries in Afghanistan. 
Denmark first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002. Its formal military engagement ended in July 2013, but residuals forces remain in the country. The war cost 43 Danish lives and a total of 20 billion kroner ($3 billion). 

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The Danish resident saving Afghanistan’s women footballers one player at a time

The former captain of Afghanistan's women's football team has been working tirelessly from her home in Denmark to evacuate the team's players, who are under threat from the Taliban. And she isn't giving up.

The Danish resident saving Afghanistan's women footballers one player at a time
Khalida Popal photographed in the stands of FC Nordsjaelland in Farum. Photo: Tariq Mikkel Khan / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP

Khalida Popal is more determined than ever to continue her fight for the emancipation of girls and women in her native country, where the Taliban do not allow women to play sports.

As she battles to bring football players out of the country, she hasn’t slept for days.

“We have managed to get 75 people out of Afghanistan, which includes players and their families” who have flown to Australia, Popal tells AFP, sitting in the stands of FC Nordsjaelland, the Danish first division team for which she works as commercial coordinator. “We are trying to get more players out of Afghanistan. We’ll do everything possible to get our players out.”

Popal, 34, came to Denmark from Afghanistan 10 years ago as a refugee. She has not slept since Afghanistan fell into the hands of the Taliban, her hands clasped tightly around her phone as she helps organise the evacuation of the players, together with professional players’ union FIFPro among others.

On her voicemail, she listens to desperate pleas for help. As manager of Afghanistan’s now-splintered national squad, she is the point-person for the players, who are in a state of shock. Some of them have been threatened by hardline Islamists, others beaten by the Taliban.

“I had to take the lead, together with my team, to help them to get out of Afghanistan. The players were crying, seeking protection, hopeless,” she says.

Tool for emancipation

She helped them “to regroup, to keep up hope and not give up. That was the toughest,” she said, describing herself as a “survivor”. For their safety, she won’t disclose any details about the players still in Afghanistan that they’re trying to get out. She looks exhausted, but her determination is visible.

For her, football is her passion. But more importantly, she sees it as a tool for the emancipation of Afghan women. Everything she learned on the pitch — team spirit, determination, perseverance — has come in useful these past few days. She recalls her own childhood in Afghanistan, one she says was stolen by the Taliban.

“I was not able to go to school, I was not able to participate in any social activities,” she explains. “We wanted to kind of take revenge and say ‘football is the way that we want to take revenge from the Taliban and the Taliban is our enemy’. That was our strong statement.”

Since the first women’s teams started emerging about 15 years ago, football has grown rapidly in Afghanistan. But it all disappeared overnight when Kabul fell to the Taliban.

“We had around 3,000 to 4,000 women and girls who were registered in the football federation at different levels: grassroots, elite level, and semi-elite level. We had referees, coaches, female coaches,” Popal says.

‘Our pride has been taken from us’

“After the fall of Kabul, that was all gone. That’s sad,” she says, her voice cracking.

The players’ future is unknown at this point. They “might play football, but they will not play as players of Afghanistan, because they will not have a country nor a national team.”

The Taliban “have changed the flag of Afghanistan, the flag we felt proud to see and play for. Our pride has been taken from us,” she said.

With US troops set to leave on August 31, Popal, whose parents also live in Denmark, fears her native country will be abandoned and forgotten.

“Once again, people will live in a dark time. And whatever humanitarian crisis and crime happens in Afghanistan, nobody will be able to report about it.”

Especially, she says, since the Taliban have become better at speaking to the international media.

But she will continue to use her own voice.

“As human beings, stand together with me and fight, and be the voice for every woman of Afghanistan,” she pleaded. “For every woman who is left in the country, every woman who feels betrayed and abandoned.”