“Not feeling safe”

Women’s sports in Afghanistan struggle against corruption, conservatism, threats

When the 2016 Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro this summer, Afghanistan’s female athletes likely won’t be in attendance. And they’d be hard to find in Afghanistan, too, as the country’s ranks of female athletes have all but disappeared in recent years amid mounting corruption and cultural conservatism inside the country, according to The New York Times. The national soccer team, which last played an international match in 2014, had only 10 women show up to its most recent practice, and the coach was a no-show. Team captain Forozan Tajali, 22, told the Times that the national team has lost more members to marriage than anything else since most Afghan women must wed by their early 20s or risk being considered “too old” and many of their husbands forbid them from playing. The country’s other formerly-robust sports, including cricket, cycling, and taekwondo, have faltered in recent years. The cycling coach, Haji Abdul Sediq Seddiqi, was recently fired by the National Olympic Committee for allegedly marrying and divorcing three young female athletes he coached (he denies the charge).

One female cricket competitor may make this year’s Olympics, but she lives in Iran and just practices in Afghanistan. The head of women’s sports for the country’s National Olympic Committee, former Olympic runner Robina Jalali, said that while Western countries used to offer financial incentives for the maintenance of women’s sports in order to help improve women’s positions in Afghan society, they’ve stopped paying attention.

“The main problem is the growing insecurity we have; secondly, violence against women, which is growing. Women are not feeling safe to train,” Jalali said.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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