WhatsApp, the leading global private messaging service, and The Lab, the creative incubator within award-winning production company Anonymous Content, have announced the release of their new documentary, We Are Ayenda, which tells the extraordinary story of the Afghan Youth Women’s National Football Team and their remarkable escape from Afghanistan after the Taliban took power in 2021. The documentary debuted during the Women’s World Cup and is streaming on Prime Video.
The half-hour film, which was adapted and produced by The Lab and directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Amber Fares, reveals the bravery of these young women and their determination to continue playing the sport they love. The documentary aims to raise awareness of the experience people face when forced to migrate and the power of sport to bring people together.
The film follows the profound relationship that develops between Farkhunda Muhtaj, the former captain of Afghanistan’s women’s national football team and humanitarian activist, and the members of the women’s youth team. Despite never having met in person, Muhtaj leads the young women to safety via WhatsApp texts and voice messages, which are woven throughout the documentary to retell their story.
“These incredible young women just want to continue competing in football and aspire to achieve their dreams,” said Farkhunda Muhtaj. “To help them escape successfully, I knew the stakes were extremely high for secure communication. If something was intercepted, whether it be their passports or IDs, not only would the mission be jeopardized but everyone’s life would be at risk.”
“From the moment we first shared this story with the WhatsApp team, we were all in awe of the girls and Farkhunda,” said Zac Ryder, Executive Producer at The Lab. “Everyone was on the same page that our number one job was to honor them and their families, which meant telling the story as authentically as possible. It takes a very brave client to sign up for something like that. We’re so fortunate to be working with such thoughtful, committed partners.”
The film captures the sheer determination and unwavering spirit of these young athletes, offering a unique perspective into their lives.
“WhatsApp exists to connect people privately. When we heard this story, we were humbled that our app, built with the safety of users in mind, was there to help them on their journey,” said Vivian Odior, Global head of marketing at WhatsApp. “We are so honored to support these brave women who are an inspiration to everyone pursuing their dreams.”
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women and girls have been denied their human rights, including the right to go to school, work, and their ability to play sports. According to UN estimates, 8 million Afghans have been displaced from their homes due to violence, including millions of refugees now living abroad.
To learn more about how you can support the Afghan Youth Women’s National Football Team, follow @ayendafc and visit afghangirls.soccerspace.org.