Australian government praises national cricket team boycott of Afghanistan matches – The Guardian

The decision by Cricket Australia, based on ‘unacceptable’ treatment of women and girls by the Taliban, has been labelled ‘pathetic’ by the Afghan Cricket Board
The Australian sports minister, Anika Wells, has praised Cricket Australia for boycotting international matches against Afghanistan in response to the Taliban’s “unacceptable” treatment of women and girls.
Australia were scheduled to play three one-day internationals against Afghanistan on neutral ground in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in March, but after talks with the Australian government the series has been cancelled.
“The Australian government welcomes Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming men’s One Day International series against Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s increased suppression of women and girl’s rights,” said Wells.
“The Taliban’s systematic removal of women and girls from public life is unacceptable.”
The Afghan Cricket Board has criticised the boycott as “pathetic” and “extremely disappointing”, while Afghan international T20 captain, Rashid Khan, has threatened to quit playing in the Big Bash League in response.
Cricket Australia had decided to boycott the matches before approaching the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which gave its support on behalf of the government. Future matches will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
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The boycott comes after the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities, and their ability to access parks and gyms.
Shadow foreign minister, Simon Birmingham, said he respected the right of sporting codes to make these decisions independent of government.
“The erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan is appalling and worthy of every condemnation or peaceful act of protest,” Birmingham said.
Former Afghan parliamentarian, Mariam Solaimankhil, thanked Cricket Australia for its decision and said boycotts have “a long history of being used as a political tool”.
“The international boycott of South African cricket during the apartheid era is a powerful reminder of the impact that refusing to play can have in the fight for justice – Thank you Australia,” Solaimankhil wrote on Twitter.
Habib Khan, the founder of Afghan Peace Watch, an independent human rights research group, said he hoped other nations would boycott cricket matches.
“The Taliban has been using cricket and cricket players in Afghanistan to cleanse their image and whitewash their crimes,” Khan said.
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“Australia boycotting the series with Afghanistan could be used to increase pressure on the Taliban back home, from cricket players and cricket fans. Cricket has a huge following in Afghanistan and I hope the cricket stars ask their fans to speak up for the rights of women in Afghanistan.”
Rashid Khan, who is currently playing for the Adelaide Strikers, said he was disappointed by the decision and argued it would punish the Afghan people.
“I take great pride in representing my country and we have made great progress on the world stage. This decision from CA sets us back in that journey,” Khan tweeted.
“If playing versus Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will be strongly considering my future in that competition.”
In a statement, Cricket Australia said it was “committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan”. It added that it would “continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country”.
Australia will forfeit 30 competition points for the series, which go towards World Cup qualification but have already secured automatic qualification to the 50-over tournament in India in October.
The International Cricket Council has previously described the Taliban’s treatment of women as concerning but has not recommended boycotts.


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