In a major win for Afghan women, the newly appointed chairman of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) Mirwais Ashraf said that Afghan women can continue to play cricket.
The new chairman made these comments during his introductory meeting with the ACB staff and managers. According to TOLO News, Ashraf said that for Afghanistan to remain a part of the International Cricket Council, the country must allow women to play cricket.
“Women’s cricket is one of the major requirements of the ICC, therefore, it is committed to obtaining it,” said Ashraf.
“Our girls will play cricket on a normal basis. We will also provide them with basic needs and facilities,” he further added.
Read more: Afghan women outraged by new Taliban restrictions on work
Afghanistan Cricket Board: The Afghan women's cricket team will be in place. pic.twitter.com/7SPieuPVQP
— Safiullah Bakhshi | صفی الله بخشی (@SafiullahB001) November 25, 2021
Important to note, the Taliban’s hardline stance against women playing sports raised international concern. Soon after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women’s sport is neither appropriate nor necessary.
“I don’t think women 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,” he said.
Female athletes flee Afghanistan
Furthermore, fearing the Taliban, many female athletes left Afghanistan. Earlier, a group of 77 Afghan athletes and family members, including members of the Afghanistan women’s national football team left Kabul airport on a plane bound for Australia.
Similarly, members from Afghanistan’s national women’s football team also sought Pakistan’s help. They wrote a letter to PM Imran Khan to grant the players and their families urgent temporary visas.
Read more: Australia evacuates Afghan sportwomen
“These teenage and young female athletes are at immediate risk because of their association with women’s football in Afghanistan and their participation in national public football tournaments,” the letter stated.
Pakistan responded and provided the players with sanctuary. According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the players entered Pakistan through the Northwestern Torkham border on emergency humanitarian visas.
We welcome Afghanistan Women football team they arrived at Torkham Border from Afghanistan,The players were in possession of valid Afg Passport, pak visa, They were received by Nouman Nadeem of PFF
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) September 14, 2021
Pakistan’s decision to help the Afghan athletes sparked a massive appreciation for the country. Such an approach by Pakistan augmented its soft image and a confirmation of the fact that Pakistan supports a peaceful Afghanistan and condemns acts of violence and repressiveness.
Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, said: “It is wonderful news if Pakistan agreed to grant entry to Afghanistan’s women’s football team.”
Read more: Girls of Afghan football team to get Pakistan’s protection
Owing to Afghanistan’s restrictions on women, ACB allowing women to continue playing cricket is a welcoming development.