In yet another distressing defeat for women in Afghanistan, the Taliban has announced that women will not be permitted to play sports, including cricket, since it will “expose their bodies” or “expose them to the media.”
In an exclusive interview with SBS News, Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, said that sports is not important for women.
“I don’t think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play cricket,” Wasiq said.
“In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this.”
“It is the media era, and there will be photos and videos, and then people watch it. Islam and the Islamic Emirate do not allow women to play cricket or play the kind of sports where they get exposed.”
Last month, Wasiq told SBS Pashto that the Taliban will permit the men’s cricket to play and compete internationally. They have allowed the men’s national team to compete in a test match against Australia in Hobart in November this year.
These latest comments from Wasiq however have raised questions as to whether the match will go ahead, and increased uncertainties regarding the future of Afghanistan’s men’s cricket team.
Last November, Afghanistan’s Cricket Board awarded twenty-five female cricket players contracts, which have apparently seen the players continue to be financially reimbursed.
According to the regulations set by International Cricket Council, all of its full members (currently there are twelve) must have a national women’s team in order to play test matches. Only full members of the ICC can compete.
When Wasiq was asked about the possibility that the ICC may cancel the test matches in Hobart, he replied that the Taliban will not compromise.
“Even for this, if we face challenges and problems, we have fought for our religion so that Islam is to be followed,” Wasiq said. “We will not cross Islamic values even if it carries opposite reactions. We will not leave our Islamic rules.”
Wasiq reiterated that Islam allowed women to go out “…on a needs basis such as for shopping. Sport is not considered a need.”
“In cricket and other sports, women will not get an Islamic dress code,” he expressed. “It is obvious that they will get exposed and will not follow the dress code, and Islam does not allow that.”
Richard Colbeck, Australia’s Minister for Sport remarked that the Taliban’s decision is “deeply concerning” and that he has encouraged bodies, including the International Cricket Council to take action.
“Excluding women from sport at any level is unacceptable,” he said in a statement to SBS News.
“We urge international sport authorities, including the International Cricket Council, to take a stand against this appalling ruling.”
“The Taliban’s attitudes towards women and their individual rights should not be accepted by the international sporting community.”
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the ban is “incredibly, incredibly disappointing”.
“Most Australians would be absolutely abhorred at the idea that girls (and) women wouldn’t be allowed to play sport,” he said on Wednesday.
“This is something that our sporting codes will have to think about and look at very carefully.”
“The idea that you would stop females playing sport is something that would go against what every Australian would think is the right thing to do.”
A spokesperson for the International Cricket Council told SBS News the body is concerned by the ban and will bring up the issue at its next ICC board meeting.
“The ICC is committed to the long-term growth of women’s cricket and despite the cultural and religious challenges in Afghanistan, steady progress has been made in this area since Afghanistan’s admission as a Full Member in 2017,” the spokesperson said.
“The ICC has been monitoring the changing situation in Afghanistan and is concerned to note recent media reports that women will no longer be allowed to play cricket.”
“This and the impact it will have on the continued development of the game will be discussed by the ICC Board at its next meeting.”
A spokesperson for Cricket Australia said it is in contact with the ICC and the Australian government, monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and considering the possibility of the upcoming tour of the Afghanistan men’s cricket team.
“As of today, Afghanistan is a full member nation of the ICC and as such is scheduled to play the ICC T20 World Cup next month, followed by the Hobart Test,” the spokesperson said.
“Clearly, some of the issues arising are significant global matters which transcend the game of cricket which we, and many hundreds of millions of people, love.”
“Cricket Australia considers itself a leader in driving the evolution and promotion of the women’s game globally, as evidenced by the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final at the MCG last year.”
“Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all; and we continue to support the game unequivocally for women and men at every level of the game.”
On Tuesday, the Taliban announced their interim government — none of whom are women.
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