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Global rights watchdog calls for ICC to suspend Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch on Monday called for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to suspend Taliban-run Afghanistan from ICC membership and stop the national team from playing international matches until women and girls can once again participate in education and sport.

The rights watchdog’s director of global initiatives Minky Worden said the ICC needs to follow through on its own anti-discrimination policy for international cricket, which states the council is committed to ensuring cricket can be played by all players irrespective of their race, religion, culture, color, descent, gender, ethnic origin among others.

In a statement issued by Human Rights Watch, Worden said: “The International Cricket council (ICC) should suspend Taliban-run Afghanistan from ICC membership, and from participating in international cricket, until women and girls can once again participate in education and sport in the country.”

This is the latest in a growing list of organizations calling for the ICC to take steps against the Taliban’s spate of edicts against women in the country.

On Thursday, January 12, Cricket Australia (CA) called off its ODI series against Afghanistan that was scheduled to be played in the United Arab Emirates in March.

In a statement, CA explained that the decision followed the Taliban’s recent announcement regarding further restrictions on women and girls’ education and the ban on women working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The cricket body stated that it condemned the restrictions on female participation in sport, which the Taliban imposed soon after coming into power.

“CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country,” the CA statement read.

Afghanistan is the only ICC full member nation without a women’s team, and is the only full member without a side at the inaugural Women’s U19 T20 World Cup that started on Saturday.

ICC CEO Geoff Allardice meanwhile said last week that recent developments in Afghanistan were “concerning”, and confirmed the issue would be raised at its next meeting.

“Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime,” Allardice said.

“It is a concern that progress is not being made in Afghanistan and it’s something our board will consider at its next meeting in March. As far as we are aware, there isn’t activity at the moment.”

Cricket Australia’s decision sparked a furious response from Afghanistan’s cricketers last week with Afghan fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq Murid calling the decision “childish”. He accused Australia of taking away Afghans’ only reason for happiness instead of being supportive.

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