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Afghan Women Will Be Banned From Playing Sports, A Taliban Official Says

The newly installed Taliban regime will forbid Afghan women from playing cricket and other sports where their bodies might be seen, a senior official told Australian public broadcaster SBS.

"I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play cricket," said Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, according to a translation by SBS.

Afghanistan has a national women's cricket team — but its status has been thrown into question along with every other woman in the country after the Taliban ousted the U.S.-backed government. Female athletes who once aspired to competing at the international level have resorted to hiding or attempting to flee the country.

"Every woman playing cricket or other sports is not safe right now," a member of the women's team recently told the BBC. "The situation is very bad in Kabul."

Wasiq spoke to SBS as the Afghan men's team prepares to visit Australia for a test match in November. But when the outlet asked about the future of the national women's team, the Taliban official suggested the outlook is bleak. "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, according to SBS.

"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," Wasiq said.

The Taliban's position could threaten Afghanistan's standing in the sports world. The International Cricket Council requires countries to have women's teams to qualify for full membership — a status Afghanistan reached in 2017.

In light of Wasiq's statement, the council said it has been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and is "concerned" by the news that women could be banned from the sport, according to SBS.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.