A runner in Afghanistan says the uniforms she and other women athletes have worn in local and international competitions have completely covered their bodies and have not violated Islamic hijab norms, as the Taliban claim.
With these comments, the 24-year-old professional athlete – whose name will not be released for her safety – responds to a senior Taliban official who, last week, said Afghan women would not be allowed to play “sports where exposed”.
The Islamic Taliban has been in control of most of Afghanistan since August 15.
“During training and competitions, we wore head scarves, wore long-sleeved T-shirts and long pants. “We are wearing skirts over the pants”, says the runner from Kabul.
According to her, she and her teammates have always made sure that their bodies are not exposed during training and competitions.
“I have never taken off my scarf in any race, anywhere in the world, and the organizers of foreign events have never objected. “They respected him as our choice,” she told Radio Free Europe.
The Taliban government, which was formed earlier this month, has not publicly announced its policy towards women’s sports.
On September 14, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, the new director general for sports, said senior Taliban leaders were still deciding on the issue.
But the deputy head of the Taliban Cultural Commission, Ahmadullah Wasic, has recently said that Afghan women may not be allowed to play sports because their bodies will be exposed during competitions.
“In cricket and other sports, women cannot respect the Islamic dress code. It is clear that they will be exposed and will not follow the dress code. “Islam does not allow this,” said Wasic.
These comments suggest that the Taliban will pursue a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, restricting many rights.
The runner from Kabul, who started playing sports when her father took her to a sports center at the age of 10, says that she has “buried” her dreams and that there is no hope that she will be allowed to return. back to sports.
“What I see ahead is darkness,” she told Radio Free Europe.
“I am afraid for my safety and that of my family. “I do not want to put them at risk by trying to continue my career,” she added.
Wasic ‘s comments also raise concerns about the Taliban’ s general attitude towards women ‘s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, most of which were severely curtailed during the group’ s harsh rule in 1996-2001.
“The Taliban are preventing working women from returning to their regular office jobs, so I do not think they will allow women to compete in stadiums, in front of crowds,” she said.
Despite the lack of modern sports facilities and disapproving glances from her conservative neighbors, the runner says she was happy to do what she and her family liked.
But she says she has not left her home since the Taliban returned to power on August 15.
She also worked as a coach – a profession she had planned for her future after retiring from the competition.
In her career, she has won many gold, silver and bronze medals in domestic competitions.
She has also represented Afghanistan in competitions in Iran, Kazakhstan and other countries.
She and her teammates returned to Kabul from a trip abroad just days before the Western-backed government fell and the Taliban took control of Kabul.
Asked if she has received any specific threats from the Taliban, she says she feels there is a climate of fear in general for all career women in Afghanistan.
“My photos with my name are hanging on the Sports and Olympic Committee, where the new Taliban officials are sitting now. “I am afraid that they will come after me”, says the runner.
Dozens of professional athletes have fled Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power.
This week, several girls who played for Afghanistan’s national football team crossed the border into Pakistan, along with their coaches and family.
The athletes reportedly sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asking for permission to enter the country. The players said they were under “major threats” from the Taliban
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