Australia dump Afghan cricket series over Taliban crackdown on women

Australia pulled out of an upcoming one-day series against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, citing Taliban moves to further restrict women's rights.

The men's team were due to face their Afghan counterparts in three games in March following a tour to India.

However, Cricket Australia said that, after talks with concerned parties that included the Australian government, the series would no longer take place.

"This decision follows 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," it said in a statement.

"CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan.

"(We) will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country," it said.

The games against Afghanistan were part of the ICC Super League.

Australia will forfeit 30 competition points for the series, which go towards World Cup qualification.

However, they have already secured automatic qualification to the 50-over tournament in India later this year.

At least one current Afghanistan player criticised the Australian move.

Pace bowler Naveen-ul-Haq suggested on Twitter he would pull out of the Big Bash League in Australia, where he plays for the Sydney Sixers, in retaliation.

"When a country is going through so much in place (of) being supportive you want to take the only reason of happiness from them," he tweeted.

The Taliban regained control of the South Asian nation in August 2021 and quickly began placing restrictions on women's participation in sport.

The hardline Islamists initially promised a softer approach than their first stint in power from 1996-2001, a period notorious for rights abuses that included public executions and floggings.

They have gradually reintroduced an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, and women have seen hard-won rights evaporate as they were squeezed out of public life.

The Taliban barred teenage girls from attending secondary schools and then last month banned women from attending universities, prompting global outrage and protests in some Afghan cities.

They then decreed at the end of last month that Afghan women could no longer work for NGOs, at a time when Afghanistan faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with its population of 38 million hungry and three million children at risk of malnutrition.

Most female government workers had already lost their jobs. Women were also barred from travelling without a male relative and told they must cover up with a burqa or hijab when outside the home.

In November, women were also banned from entering parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths.

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