“Help us to play again…”: Afghanistani Women Cricketers Appeal To ICC

Just over two years ago, Firooza Amiri was a promising 18-year-old cricketer, a beacon of hope for the Afghanistan women’s cricket team. She dreamed of representing her nation internationally, a testament to her talent and dedication. However, fate had other plans, and her life and the lives of millions in her war-torn country were irrevocably altered.

On August 15, 2021, Afghanistan underwent a seismic transformation as the Taliban regained control. It marked a watershed moment for the nation and Afghan women, whose dreams and aspirations were uncertain. Faced with imminent danger and an uncertain future, Firooza Amiri and her family embarked on a perilous journey.

The path to safety led them first to Pakistan and eventually to Australia. In this distant land, far removed from the familiarity of their homeland, they sought refuge and the possibility of a brighter future. Firooza Amiri, like most of her teammates, now calls Australia her home.

But the story doesn’t end there. Instead of succumbing to despair, Firooza Amiri and her fellow cricketers have displayed incredible resilience. They yearn for more than mere survival; they crave the opportunity to play the sport they love and represent their country, even in the face of the Taliban’s oppressive ban on women in sports and education.

The second anniversary of the Taliban’s resurgence is a grim reminder, not just for Firooza Amiri but for all Afghan women. It’s a day etched in darkness, where dreams were shattered, and the collective efforts of many years were obliterated. Firooza Amiri, with emotion evident in her words, recounts the harrowing events of that fateful day.

As Herat, the city of their origin, fell to the Taliban, Firooza and her family made the perilous journey to Kabul. They encountered a chaotic city, with people flocking to the airport, desperately seeking escape. It was a heart-wrenching scene of panic, gunfire, and unimaginable fear.

Amidst this turmoil, Firooza and her teammates found solace in a safe house. Their journey to safety was fraught with peril, but their determination to survive and thrive remained unshaken.

Firooza Amiri and her teammates have not surrendered to adversity. Instead, they have directed their plea to the highest authority in cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC). In a heartfelt email, they implored the ICC to clarify their stance on national playing contracts and future opportunities. They emphasized that their relocation to Australia, away from the oppressive environment in Afghanistan, should not curtail their dreams of representing their nation.

Amiri said, “It was a black day for me and all the girls of Afghanistan; the day our dreams were destroyed and all the efforts of many years of each of us were destroyed. When Herat fell, we decided to go to Kabul and reach one of the foreign embassies. When we arrived in Kabul, we saw that Afghanistan had fallen completely to the Taliban, and all the people were going to the airport to be able to leave the country. We did the same.”

Despite their passionate appeal, the Afghan women’s team received no response from the Afghanistan Cricket Board or the ICC. It was a disheartening silence that echoed the neglect they had faced for years.

Amiri mentioned, “It was very painful for me when I saw that all the girls, journalists, and politicians of Afghanistan were going to the airport and were leaving their country. The most terrifying moment of my life was when I saw a shooting everywhere; people were screaming and crying, and even a young man had been shot five times. That was when we stopped going to the airport, and my teammates and I went to a safe house.”

While the ICC stated that they could not interfere in the autonomy of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, Firooza Amiri and her teammates drew hope from Australia’s decision to cancel a limited-overs series against Afghanistan earlier this year. The cancellation, attributed to concerns over the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights, demonstrated that some countries were willing to stand up for the cause of Afghan women in sports.

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ICC said, “The ICC board remains committed to supporting the Afghanistan Cricket Board and is not penalizing the ACB or their players for abiding by the laws set by the government of their country. The board manages the relationship with players in any of the ICC’s member countries in that country, and the ICC does not get involved. Similarly, the authority to field men’s and women’s national teams lies solely with the member board in any country, not with the ICC.”

Notably, Firooza Amiri and her teammates do not advocate for the banishment of the Afghan men’s cricket team from international cricket. They believe uniting the Afghan people through cricket is a more viable solution. Unfortunately, the men’s team has not embraced their cause.

Despite the hardships, the dangers, and the uncertainty, Firooza Amiri’s spirit remains unbroken. She continues to nurture her dreams and hopes that they will one day represent their country on the international stage. Her optimism is exemplified by a poignant slogan: “Gonna take more than a human to stop me from where I am meant to be.” It’s a rallying cry encapsulating the indomitable spirit of Afghan women cricketers, a spirit that refuses to be extinguished.

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