R.Oya Samim fled Afghanistan to Canada with her two sisters two days before the Taliban invaded Kabul. All three were cricketers on the Afghan women’s team. Basically, she’s one of the lucky ones: She got out before the Taliban got on. But that doesn’t stop the overwhelming grief.
“Leaving Afghanistan was a sad day for me. I just cried, ”she says. “I really love everything I’ve had: my job, my cricket, my teammates, my hometown, my relatives. I leave everything that I have. Even now, when I remember that day, I will cry. “
The last time the Taliban were in power, it banned women and girls from training or working, and women were not allowed outside unless they were wearing a burqa and were accompanied by a male relative. Sport was out of the question and although the Taliban have not made a definitive statement about the future of female participation, Samim has no hope: “The Taliban are against girls who study, so how do they want a girls’ cricket team?”
She is very concerned about the fate of her teammates left behind – as far as she knows, she and her sisters are the only ones who got off. “My other teammates who are staying in Afghanistan are afraid they will stay in their homes,” she says. “They are sad, they ask people to help us. Emotionally and physically they are not good. “
In contrast to the 77 young athletes and members of the Afghan football team and officials who were evacuated to Australia with the help of the players’ union Fifpro, and the two Paralympic athletes who were flown from Kabul by the Royal Australian Air Force and brought to Tokyo, Afghanistan is female cricketers feel abandoned.
“We all emailed the ICC but received no response from them,” says Samim. “Why don’t they react to us, why don’t they take us into account, even treat us in such a way that we do not exist in the world?
“After the Taliban arrived in Kabul, we asked for it [the ICC] Please save all the girls, we are worried about our teammates. The Afghan cricket board [ACB] didn’t say anything either, they just said: ‘Wait’. “
The International Cricket Council announced that, to the best of its knowledge, it had not received any emails asking for help. It is believed that they will continue to work with the Afghan Executive Board and be guided by them on best course of action rather than acting unilaterally.
The ICC will continue to monitor the situation regarding the development of the game in Afghanistan and its role in enhancing the image of women. The dissolution of the young women’s team could theoretically jeopardize Afghanistan’s full membership in the ICC.
Numerous refugees were evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul last Thursday. Photo: Hassan Majeed / UPI / Shutterstock
After women’s cricket has been developing at a snail’s pace for years in Afghanistan, the situation for female players has just improved significantly. In November, the ACB announced 25 central contracts for women cricketers after a training camp for 40 women “taking into account Islamic and traditional Afghan values”.
There were viable plans for a future, and Samim was encouraged to see little girls occasionally playing cricket on the streets of Kabul. “It wasn’t that difficult for us last year. We can have opportunities, we can have games, we can train every day. Before that it was difficult, people didn’t accept us, the ACB said we weren’t allowed to go out with the cricket equipment. “
“We had planned a game against Oman. We waited, ready for it. For six months we trained, trained, all the girls are getting stronger every day. We are ready.”
The signs are that the men’s team, which has brought so much joy and hope to the people of Afghanistan, can play at the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and that the domestic T20 competition, the (expanded) Shpageeza Cricket League, will be continued as planned in September.
“The Taliban have no problem or problem with [male] Cricket, ”said ACB’s Hikmat Hassan. “You told us that we can continue our work as planned.”
Samim is full of praise for some of her male colleagues like Rashid Khan, who attended the women in her academy, and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi. Both have used Twitter to express their sadness over what is happening in their country.
Khan, speaking in July of his hopes for a future in which Afghanistan could play cricket in front of a home crowd, wrote: “Dear world leaders! My country is in chaos, thousands of innocent people, including children and women, are martyred every day, homes and properties are being destroyed. Thousands of families displaced. Don’t leave us in the chaos. Stop killing Afghans and destroying Afghanistan. We want peace. “
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Samim, 28, taught math in Afghanistan and wants to continue her studies – a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in Canada. She hopes to continue playing cricket. Above all, she wants to keep the Afghan cricket team going.
“Everyone deserves to be happy and at peace, Afghanistan is not good for people now, especially for girls, but also for men, I don’t know what’s going to happen. The Taliban say one thing, but I think they are breaking their promises.
“I have hope. I never stop hoping that Afghanistan has to have a girls’ team. If the Taliban don’t accept that, it has to happen in another country and we will play under the Afghan flag. We have to play.”
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