With the Taliban’s regain of political control in Afghanistan, people instantly recognized that a shift in government power meant a loss of their rights. An example was the women who actively participated in sports since the Taliban’s removal from power in 2001. With the reinstatement of their regime, their rights for simple enjoyment have been rolled back.
The Taliban’s basis for banning women’s participation in sport comes from their religious beliefs. Participating in sports could expose a woman, which is considered deeply inappropriate in the fundamentalist form of Islam which the Taliban practices. A Taliban spokesperson also cited the media as being a concern for the exposure of their female athletes.
Cricket, a popular sport throughout the country, is now off-limits for women and girls. Additionally, those women who were once members of the now-banned national cricket team have gone into hiding for their own protection for fear of retaliation by the new government. Some have attempted to leave the country and seek asylum elsewhere. Women in Kabul feel especially uneasy; after a violent few months, they hope they can keep violence at bay from themselves.
Alternatively, the men’s team is being actively endorsed by the government for a match with Australia which will take place in November. The International Cricket Council keeps a close eye on Afghanistan as member teams must compete and qualify in order to achieve full status. The women’s team had already done so in 2017.
The Taliban forbids co-ed schooling, which marks another source of pain and concern for the women of Afghanistan. Petition against the Taliban’s new law enforcement could mean death for anyone attempting to stand against them. For many young girls in the country, sports were once a source of freedom. For some, it created liberation against the dress codes they were forced to follow, since participation in sports allowed girls to wear athletic gear which was less restrictive. In turn, they could share their newfound passions and excitement with one another. Something that will almost certainly come with a stark price is someone brave enough to test the Taliban’s boundaries.
Sport was another way for Afghani women to see the world. Plenty have risen to compete internationally. Upon returning home, they would share that opportunity with others by creating programs to help those around them become successful world-class athletes. Now, these women are reduced to hiding their successes in hopes that their name does not mean a death sentence. Sediqa Sidiqi, a cyclist, has said that with the transition of power, her father took a picture of her awards, medals, and certificates, with plans to burn them afterwards. Years of work reduced to ashes.
Sidiqi shared her love with other girls in the community. It was difficult at first, as she and the other girls who rode about their town were frequently assaulted with stones or produce by ment. However, upon here return home after a national championship last year, she was greeted warmly. Now, all the hard work herself and the women of her community put forth will be erased.
Other young-women, like those on soccer teams, are riddled with depression. The dream of competing on a national scale has been ripped from them before even being granted the opportunity. Nonetheless, some athletes are brave as they stand against the Taliban’s attempts to take their opportunities from them by continuing to play, regardless of the threat it poses.
Some of the best-known female athletes from Afghanistan no longer live in the country. Upon securing their safety, they will do what they can to help encourage the bravery of others from afar. Afghani women who have succeeded know that it is the women who came before who inspired them to take charge of their passions and opportunities.The end goal is to provide the same support to other women.
Hope is important for the future of women’s athletics in Afghanistan. It may be easy to feel frightened and hopeless by the situation, Afghani women who have created international acclaim remain determined in the idea that young women will not give up their passions easily. While the future seems bleak, challenging these rules and regulations will be essential in securing twenty years worth of work so that it will not be dismantled overnight. The future of women’s athletics in Afghanistan will be watched with careful eye by the international community.