By Mansoor Khosrow | –
( RFE/ RL ) – The majestic mountains in the central province of Bamiyan are known as Afghanistan’s skiing capital. But due to a new Taliban ban, women are no longer welcome on the slopes.
Hundreds of amateur and professional skiers took to the mountains to hone their skills far from the violence that gripped large swathes of the country over the past two decades.
For girls and women, especially, the sport provided a high-altitude refuge that gave them an opportunity to enjoy an activity taken as a given throughout the world.
“I felt happy and free,” said 16-year-old Elina Hussaini of her experiences racing down the slopes of Koh-e Baba, a local Bamiyan skiing hub, with her father.
But like most sporting activities, skiing is now just a memory for the ninth-grader and other Afghan girls and women following a recent Taliban decision to ban them from the slopes.
Afghanistan’s second winter since the hard-line extremist group seized power has proven to be particularly harsh for skiers like Hussaini, as the Taliban has continued to reintroduce many of the draconian limits on women’s rights and activities that it infamously imposed during its first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
As the Taliban has slowly but surely rebuilt its Islamic emirate, it has banned teenage girls and women from education and work, and restricted women’s mobility and how they can appear in public.
The ban on skiing is just the latest among the sports activities denied to girls and women.
“We are now just restricted to our homes,” Hussaini told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.
To fill her newfound and unwelcomed free time after she was barred from attending school and taking part in sports, Hussaini is learning embroidery from her mother to fill her hours stuck at home.
Farahnaz Mohammadi, a 10th-grader who once dreamed of becoming a professional skier, echoes the feeling expressed by Hussaini and an estimated 50 fellow female skiers in the Bamiyan region. “It is very boring and excruciating,” Mohammadi told Radio Azadi. “The Taliban has deprived us of education and leisure.”
In Bamiyan, Taliban officials confirmed the ban on girls and women skiing. “Women athletes are here, but they are not allowed to practice skiing in the mountains,” said Ziauddin Begzad, the provincial head of the General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports.
The Taliban issued a blanket ban on women’s sports within weeks of seizing power in Kabul in August 2021, forcing many professional and amateur women athletes to continue their training in secret or to flee Afghanistan altogether.
Outside the country, some have found opportunities to continue their training abroad.
Afghanistan’s women’s soccer team disintegrated when its members fled to Australia after the Taliban returned to power. But the country’s exiled soccer federation secured world soccer body FIFA’s support in restoring its right to represent Afghanistan on the playing field, and this week the federation announced it would soon hold a training camp for the women’s national team.
The Taliban’s ban on women’s sports has reached well beyond the arena and even into the most routine activities. In November, for example, the Taliban banned women from using public gyms and encouraged those who wanted to exercise to do so at home.
The following month the International Olympic Committee warned that it could quit working with Afghanistan unless the Taliban gave “safe and inclusive access” to women athletes and also allowed women to take part in sports administration.
Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by Mansoor Khosrow of RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi
Via RFE/ RL
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