Australia Postpones Cricket Match with Afghanistan Over Women’s Rights Concerns

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Australia has again postponed its upcoming cricket match against Afghanistan citing the deteriorating human rights situation for women and girls under Taliban rule.

In a statement on Tuesday, March 19, the Cricket Australia (CA) said that conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan are deteriorating, mandating them to postpone the game, citing advice from the Australian Government. The scheduled T20 series, set for August under the ICC’s Future Tours Program, was due to be hosted by Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“For this reason, we have maintained our previous position and will postpone the bilateral series against Afghanistan,” the CA statement reads.

This marks the third occasion Australia has refused to play Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021 and immediately imposed restrictions on women and girls, including their participation in sports.

“CA continues its strong commitment to supporting participation by women and girls in cricket around the world and will continue to actively engage the International Cricket Council and work closely with the Afghanistan Cricket Board to determine what actions could be taken to support the resumption of bilateral matches in the future.” CA said in the statement.

In November 2021, the country canceled a one-off test match against Afghanistan that was slated to be played in Hobart, Australia. In early 2023, Australia withdrew from a three-match ODI series   in the UAE.

Currently, Afghanistan remains the only ICC full member country without a women’s team. Following the Taliban takeover, many of the previously contracted Afghanistan women’s cricketers fled and resettled in Australia.

Moreover, the men’s cricket team has managed to strike a delicate balance with the regime. It continues to play under the former republican flag outside but has refrained from criticizing the Taliban and their policies, including those banning women’s participation in sports. The team has also met with senior Taliban officials, posed for photos with some of its most notorious leaders. Players as senior as Rashid Khan have repeatedly exchanged flattering pleasantries on social media with leaders of the Haqqani Network, who control most of the Taliban’s oppressive security apparatus.

“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia,” said Cricket Australia when announcing the cancellation of the previous match. “Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level,” it added.

Justifying their restrictions on women’s sports, Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, told Australian SBS News in 2021 that sport is not seen as something that is important for women.

“I don’t think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play cricket,” Mr. Wasiq said. “In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this,” he further elaborated.

However, in an interview with the BBC, Geoff Allardice, CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC), emphasized that the ICC would continue to support Afghanistan as a full member.

“We have spoken with the Afghanistan Cricket Board and their position is they have to operate within the laws of the country and the rules as set by the government, and really the question for the ICC Board is ‘do we support our member in their ability to promote cricket within the rules set by the government of the country?’, and the view is yes.”