The Australian Cricket Organization said in a statement Thursday that the Australian men’s cricket team has withdrawn from the upcoming series of matches against Afghanistan in protest of the ruling Taliban’s restrictions on the education and employment of women and girls.
The teams were due to play three One Day Internationals (ODI) matches in the UAE in March, but CA decided to cancel the series after “extensive consultations” with “multiple stakeholders including the Australian government,” the statement said.
“CA is committed to supporting the development of 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 better conditions for women and girls in the country,” she added.
In December, the Taliban announced the suspension of university education for all female students. The move followed a decision in March to ban girls from returning to high school, after months-long lockdowns that have been in place since the militant Islamist group’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Later that month, the Taliban ordered all local and international NGOs to prevent their female employees from coming to work, warning that failure to comply would result in their licenses being revoked.
Cricket Australia had previously backed out of a proposed Test match against Afghanistan due to be hosted in Tasmania in November of 2021 due to the Taliban’s ban on women participating in sports.
“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is very important for Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for everyone, and we unequivocally support the game for women at every level,” the CA said at the time.
On Thursday, Australian Sports Minister Anika Wells said Canberra supported Australian cricket’s move.
“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 increasing crackdown on the rights of women and girls,” she wrote on Twitter.
Although the Taliban has repeatedly claimed that it will protect the rights of girls and women, the group has done the opposite, stripping away the hard-won freedoms that women have fought tirelessly for over the past two decades.
The United Nations and at least half a dozen major foreign aid groups said they had temporarily suspended operations in Afghanistan following the ban on female NGO employees.