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Afghan Cricket Board Says Women's Team Could Still Play

Afghan women play cricket at the grounds of the stadium in the western city of Herat in 2015.

The head of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has told an Australian broadcaster that the Afghan national women's team could still be allowed to play cricket.

ACB Chairman Azizullah Fazli told SBS Radio Pashto late on September 10 that the governing body would outline "very soon" how women would be allowed to play -- a development that, if true, would mark a reversal of the Taliban's hard-line stance on the issue.

Fazli also said that all 25 members of the women's team had remained in Afghanistan and had chosen not to leave on evacuation flights.

"We will give you our clear position on how we will allow women to play cricket," Fazli told the broadcaster. "Very soon, we will give you good news on how we will proceed."

Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban caretaker government's culture commission, told the Australian broadcaster on September 8 that it was "not necessary" for women to play sports.

However, Wasiq told Radio Azadi late on September 10 that the Taliban-led government "has not yet announced its stand on women's sports."

"The policies might be announced in future," Wasiq said. "What I had said in the past was my opinion based on the country's cultural and security situation."

Following Wasiq's earlier remarks, Australia threatened to cancel a historic maiden men's test between the two countries that is scheduled to take place in Hobart, Australia, in November.

Australian captain Tim Paine said on September 10 that he thinks teams could pull out of the Twenty20 World Cup in October to protest a Taliban ban on women in sports or could boycott playing the Afghan men's team.

The ACB early on September 11 urged Australia not to punish or "isolate" its men's team over the Taliban's apparent ban, saying it was "powerless to change the culture and religious environment of Afghanistan."

Cricket Australia said on September 11 that it remains in regular contact with the ACB and that it had made its position "very clear" in a September 9 statement in which it supported "the game unequivocally for women at every level."

Cricket Australia had also said on September 9 that it would have "no alternative" but to cancel the Hobart test if the Taliban banned women.

Under International Cricket Council regulations, countries with test status must also have an active women's team.

Despite recent reports that many of the women's team were in hiding in Kabul and that members of the Taliban had come looking for them, Fazli insisted they were safe.

"The women cricket coach, Diana Barakzai, and her players are all safe and living in their home country," Fazli said. "Many countries have asked them to leave Afghanistan. But they have not left Afghanistan, and at the moment, they are in their places."

With reporting by AFP and SBS Radio Pashto
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    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi

    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.