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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

These women were part of the Afghan cricket team – until they were forced to flee the Taliban

It had many downs. The team was just about non-existent for a few years, as the males’s team gained worldwide recognition and world standing.

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Image for read more article 'Afghanistan's cricket board signals Taliban backtrack on women’s cricket ban'

That was until late final yr, when 25 gamers were given contracts to play for the nationwide team. 

It wasn’t with out onerous work, resilience and persistence by Afghan women and their male champions, in the face of cultural constraints. Some friends felt uncomfortable with the idea of women taking part in sport in public.

Roya Samim, who was amongst the 25 gamers awarded a contact by the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), mentioned she confronted many obstacles in her path to taking part in cricket.

“It was really hard for us in the past,” she instructed SBS News, talking in Dari.

“In the first years when I started to play, people, the public, they were against women playing cricket. Even family – they used to say, ‘women don’t have a right to play cricket’.

“We weren’t even allowed to take a cricket bat out in public. But slowly, slowly, we began so that folks acquired used to the concept.”

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Image for learn extra article 'Afghan women are sharing images of vibrant clothes in protest of the Taliban'

But public discomfort is a far cry from what they’re facing today: the uncertainty of their rights under a Taliban government. 

Ms Sangar chose not to wait to see what would be in store for her. She felt she had no choice but to flee the country, and left on an evacuation flight for Canada two weeks ago. 

She’s not the only one.

Reading the signs as district by district fell to Taliban hands in the weeks prior to the capital Kabul’s takeover, Ms Samim left the country with her two sisters, one of whom was also contracted by the ACB.

Ms Samim says it wasn’t an easy decision. When she heard the Taliban had taken over Herat, where some of her teammates lived, she said they cried to her on the phone.

“‘What will occur with us?’, they mentioned,” she told SBS News of her conversations with her teammates.

“‘We can by no means play cricket once more, even we won’t go outdoors,’ they mentioned. I am unable to clarify what I felt that day.”

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan appeared to signal the end for women’s sport in the country after the deputy head of the group’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women couldn’t play sports where they can be “uncovered” to the media. 

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Image for read more article 'Afghan women can play cricket in Islamic dress, governing body says'

But in an obvious backtrack, ACB chairman Azizullah Fazli mentioned the organisation had not obtained any Taliban directive banning women from taking part in cricket, and there was at the moment “no restriction” imposed.

“We haven’t obtained any instruction [that] women’s cricket is going through any challenges,” he told SBS Pashto.

“Even earlier than [the Taliban takeover], if Afghan women gamers performed any sport, they have at all times adopted the Islamic gown code.” 

Ms Sangar said she wasn’t surprised by the Taliban’s edict, but was nonetheless heartbroken.

“All the sacrifices, difficulties and work we put in, it amounted to nothing,” she said.

“It was like a balloon you give to a baby solely to see it float away in the air. It’s like all our goals vanished.”

Ms Samim says she fears for her teammates and the future of women’s sport in Afghanistan. 


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She has urged Cricket Australia and other countries to help her teammates, including by assisting them train in a third country where they’ll be safe.

“Anyone that desires to assist them should do it actually quickly,” she said. 

“They deserve to be completely happy, they deserve to be secure.” 

A pro-Taliban protest was held in Kabul over the weekend, after the group announced women would only be allowed to attend university in gender-segregated classes and wearing an outfit which would cover most of their face.

A similar uniform edict would make it extremely difficult for women to play cricket, according to Ms Samim.

“It’s not the phrase of Islam that we now have to cowl our faces,” Ms Samim said, adding that women in the past were able to play with a hijab and loose uniforms.

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Image for read more article 'Afghan women at university will study in gender-segregated classes, Taliban say'

Mr Fazli has suggested Afghanistan women’s players will be able to follow the Islamic dress code that is implemented in countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia. 

The situation continues to impact the country’s men’s team, with Cricket Australia still poised to cancel November’s historic test match between the two nations. 

A Cricket Australia spokesperson has told SBS News they remained in “common dialogue with our colleagues at the ACB”.

The International Cricket Council’s board is set to meet next month to discuss the issue.

For her part, Ms Samim still hopes that Afghanistan could soon play against the world’s best teams.

“I simply think about at some point we may have an enormous match in the world in opposition to a well-known nation like Australia, Bangladesh or India,” she mentioned.

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