Displaced Afghan women athletes defy Taliban at Asian Games

Displaced Afghan women athletes defy Taliban at Asian Games

In Hangzhou, China, a team of Afghanistan women volleyball players are preparing for their first Asian Games, despite the Taliban government’s opposition to female sports. The volleyballers, who have been scattered across Asia, have gathered at the multi-sport event with the support of Olympic officials and the sport’s global federation. Many of them fled Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power and effectively banned women’s sports. They have since rebuilt their lives in countries like Pakistan and Iran, playing sports in exile. Now in Hangzhou, they hope to inspire and give hope to the women athletes left behind in their homeland. Mursal Khedri, a member of the volleyball team, expressed that their presence at the games can serve as a source of hope for women in Afghanistan.

The Taliban administration claims to respect women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan customs. They have also declared a “general amnesty” for their former foes under the previous foreign-backed government. However, the Afghanistan women’s volleyball team continues to face challenges. They train in hijabs, wearing lycra leggings and shirts in the traditional Afghanistan colors. Their first group match is against Kazakhstan, and while they are not expected to advance far in the tournament, even a single win would be a significant achievement for a team of exiles competing against nations with established programs and government funding. Khushal Malakzai, the secretary general of the Afghanistan volleyball federation, believes that the team’s recognition at the games is a boost for women in the country and shows that there are still people supporting them.

Malakzai, who has been based in Melbourne, Australia, for over a year, has been instrumental in organizing and fundraising for the team. He left Afghanistan due to threats from Taliban representatives because of his support for women’s sports. While initially composed and enthusiastic about the team, Malakzai became emotional when he witnessed the players forming a circle, joining hands, and shouting “Afghanistan!” at the end of their training session. He expressed his happiness that they could be at the games but also acknowledged the hopelessness faced by girls back home in Afghanistan. The Afghan women in Hangzhou are thrilled to compete at a high level but also feel nervous. The delegation includes 17 athletes participating in volleyball, cycling, and athletics. Kimia Yousofi, who carried the Afghanistan flag at the opening ceremony, declined interviews due to concerns about potential reprisals against her connections in Afghanistan.

The Afghan women and men marched together as one team at the opening ceremony, carrying the traditional national flag instead of the white one used by the Taliban government. However, due to the sensitivity of the situation, it is unlikely that the male athletes and sport officials based in Afghanistan will attend the competition venues to support the women’s volleyball team or other Afghan women athletes. Malakzai sees little hope for immediate change and hopes that the Taliban will eventually accept women’s participation in sports, but acknowledges that it will take time.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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