Afghan women banned from sports

An Afghan women’s soccer team poses for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Photo credit:

Most women, especially in the United States, take being able to play sports for granted. In Afghanistan, however, the Taliban has now banned all women from any sports, leaving many former athletes worried for their futures or even their lives overall.

“The Taliban taking the right for women to participate in any sports hurts me. You look at America and see (…) women winning the Olympics, and the Taliban is taking huge opportunities away from these women. Personally, I feel the Taliban is afraid of having women in control and [that] they will feel as if they are nothing,” Sierra Cook, sophomore, said.

The Taliban is a Sunni-Islamist nationalist group that is most prominent in the Middle East. They ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 until the United States retaliated and ran them out after the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001. The Taliban retook the country in 2021 and has been increasing government enforcement for the last two years. The regime is notorious for its strict gender roles and its belief that women should not be involved in any traditionally male-dominated activities, including sports.

“If I could not play football, I would be devastated. Sports in general are one of the best outlets in society, as they show teamwork and ingenuity. No one should be banned for playing a sport based on race, sex, or cultural backgrounds,” Jordan Graham, senior, said.

While some women have resisted the Taliban’s laws, even athletes who did give up playing the sports they love have been threatened. One woman, Noura, as well as her family, received phone calls from Taliban members harassing her about why she had ever played sports, even before they were forbidden. Others, despite the threats, keep playing when and where they can, hoping to stay in shape long enough for the laws to change.

“Life has become very difficult for me, but I am a fighter, so I will continue to live and fight,” Sarina (last name not given), a mixed martial artist in Afghanistan who still practices at home in secret, said to The Associated Press.

Despite the dangers these Afghan women face, they remain hopeful of a better future, one in which they can continue to play sports without fearing for their lives and families.