Afghan women, including the country’s women’s cricket team, will be banned from playing sports under the new Taliban government, an official from the Islamist group’s hard core has stated.
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In an interview with Australian broadcaster SBS, the deputy director of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, has said that women’s sport is seen as neither appropriate nor necessary.
“I don’t think women are allowed to play cricket because women don’t need to play cricket,” Wasiq said. “In cricket, they could face a situation where their face and body are not covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this,” he added.
“It is the age of the media, there will be photos and videos, and people will see it. Islam and the Islamic Emirate [Afganistán] they do not allow women to play cricket or practice those kinds of sports in which they are exposed. ”
The new interim Taliban government, made up exclusively of men from the extremist group, formally began working on Wednesday, with hard-core members established in all key positions and without women, despite previous promises to form an inclusive administration.
The US State Department expressed concern that the new cabinet only included the Taliban, no women and personalities with a troubling record, although it added that the new administration would be judged on its actions.
The carefully worded statement notes that the cabinet was provisional, but states that the Taliban would have to fulfill their promise to allow Afghan and foreign nationals to safely leave the country with proper travel documents, as well as ensure that the soil Afghan would not be used as a base to attack another state.
“The world is watching closely,” the statement added.
The European Union (EU) has also condemned the new government for its lack of inclusion, stating that it has not kept the promises of the new rulers to include different groups.
“After an initial analysis of the announced names, it does not appear to be the inclusive and representative lineup in terms of Afghanistan’s rich ethnic and religious diversity that we expected to see and that the Taliban were promising in recent weeks,” says an EU spokesperson.
Germany, China and Japan also offered a lukewarm reception to the Taliban interim government in Afghanistan on Wednesday, following the lightning takeover of Kabul by Islamist militants last month.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas added that the composition encouraged scant optimism about the Taliban change. “The announcement of a transitional government without the participation of other groups and yesterday’s violence against protesters and journalists in Kabul are not signs of optimism,” he said.
There is no moderation
The issue of women’s rights is likely to dominate the way the international community judges the regime. His stance on women’s sport and the formation of an exclusively male government are not good signs.
Although the political statement published to accompany the announcement of the new cabinet was intended to allay the fears of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the rest of the world, women – unlike minorities – were not mentioned once in its three pages. .
While officials at Afghanistan’s cricket board say they have not been officially informed of the fate of women’s cricket, the program targeting girls has already been suspended.
Female athletes, including female cricketers, have been hiding in Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power amid a hasty US-led withdrawal of foreign forces last month. Some women have reported being threatened by Taliban fighters with assault if caught playing games.
The sport ban comes amid mounting evidence that the Taliban’s attitude toward women has barely moderated since they last were in power, despite claims to the contrary.
As the Taliban have gone from being a militant force to reaching power, they face rejection against their government, with protests – many of them led by women – breaking out in cities across the country.
This Wednesday, a small rally in the capital, Kabul, was quickly stopped by the armed security of the Taliban. Afghan media reported that a protest in the northeastern city of Faizabad was also broken up. Hundreds of people protested on Tuesday, both in the capital and in the city of Herat, where two people were shot dead.
“Same old Taliban”
The Taliban, famous for their brutal and oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, had this time promised a more inclusive government. However, all senior positions were handed over to key leaders of the movement and the Haqqani network, the most violent faction of the Taliban, known for its devastating attacks.
Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund – a senior minister during the Taliban’s reign in the 1990s – has been appointed interim prime minister, the group’s chief spokesman reported at a press conference in Kabul.
Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the Taliban founder and late Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, has been proclaimed Defense Minister, while the post of Interior Minister has been sworn in as Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network.
Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar, who oversaw the signing of the US withdrawal agreement in 2020, has been elected as deputy prime minister.
“We will try to bring people from other parts of the country,” said the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, adding that it was an interim government.
Hibatullah Akhundzada, the secretive supreme leader of the Taliban, issued a statement saying that the new government “would work hard to uphold Islamic rules and sharia.”
The Taliban had repeatedly promised in recent days that they would rule with greater restraint than in their last period in power.
“The new Taliban are pretty much the same old Taliban,” tweeted Bill Roggio, editorial director of the American magazine Long War Journal.
“It is not inclusive at all and that is no surprise,” said Michael Kugelman, an expert on South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Translated by Lara Lema.