Taliban send all-male team to Asian Games – but Afghan women set to compete too


The sporting event is the first since the militant group took power again in Afghanistan in 2021, lessening the rights of women under their rule.

This year’s Asian Games marks the first iteration of the event since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan – and two teams of athletes are arriving in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, looking very different indeed.

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One cohort, sent from Afghanistan where women are now banned by the Taliban from participating in sports, consists of about 130 all-male athletes, who will participate in 17 different sports, including volleyball, judo and wrestling.

Another, competing under the black, red and green flag of the elected government the Taliban toppled in 2021, is drawn from the diaspora of Afghan athletes around the world.

It includes 17 women, according to Hafizullah Wali Rahimi, the president of Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee from before the Taliban took over.

Rahimi, who now works from outside Afghanistan but is still recognised by many countries as its official representative on Olympic matters, told reporters at the team’s official arrival ceremony late on Thursday that the athletes are there simply for the love of sports.

“We want to be keeping [sic] the sports completely out of the politics so the athletes can freely, inside and outside their country, do their sports activity and development,” he told AP.

The women come from across the globe and consist of athletes including a volleyball team who have been training in Iran, cyclists from Italy and a representative for athletics from Australia.

Although the Taliban promised a more moderate rule than during their previous period in power in the 1990s, they have already imposed harsh measures since seizing Afghanistan in August 2021 at the same time that US and NATO forces chose to pull out after two decades of war.

The group has barred women from most areas of public life such as parks, gyms and most jobs – and have also cracked down on media freedoms.

They have banned girls from going to school beyond the age of 12 and prohibited Afghan women from working at local and non-governmental organisations. That ban was extended to employees of the United Nations in April.

The measures have triggered a fierce international uproar, increasing the country’s isolation at a time when its economy has collapsed and amidst a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Rahimi said that the previous government had been working hard to increase women’s participation in sport since the previous Taliban regime – and that it had increased to 20%.

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“We hope it comes back, of course,” he said. “Not only the sport, we hope that they’ll be back allowed [sic] to schools and education, because that’s the basic rights of a human.”



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2023-09-24 12:12:42

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