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Afghanistan women's cricket team: Players hiding in Kabul fear Taliban rule

Asel and many of her international team-mates are in hiding. Asel isn't her real name. In Kabul members of the Taliban have already come looking for Afghanistan's women's cricket team.


"Every woman playing cricket or other sports is not safe right now," she says. "The situation is very bad in Kabul.


"We have a group on WhatsApp and every night we are talking about our problems and sharing plans about what we should do. We are all hopeless."


Asel has barely stepped outside her home since the Taliban entered Kabul in mid-August and has locked her cricket kit away. She explains how one of her team-mates was targeted in the city.


"The village where they play cricket, some people who knew them are working with the Taliban. When the Taliban came here and took Kabul they threatened them, saying, 'We may come and kill you if you try to play cricket again,'" Asel says.


Taqwa, who is also using a pseudonym, was involved in Afghan women's cricket for many years. She managed to flee the country after Kabul fell. In the week before she got out, she moved from house to house to avoid being detected. The Taliban called her father, but he said he had not been in contact with her.


"I don't want to think about what would've happened," she says. "When the Taliban came to Kabul, for a week I didn't eat anything, I didn't sleep.


"I was not only thinking about myself, I was worrying about my girls. They are sacrificing their lives, their studies. Some even didn't get married so they could play for Afghanistan. I'm very worried about their lives."


For another former player, Hareer, again speaking to the BBC using an assumed name, playing cricket as an Afghan woman meant far more than just taking wickets and scoring runs.


"When I play I feel like a strong woman," she says. "I feel confident and I feel proud of myself.

"I can imagine myself as a woman who can do anything, who can make her dreams come true."

But for Hareer and the rest of the Afghanistan women's cricket team, those dreams may well have come to an end.


When just under a year ago there seemed to be so much hope, now they fear for their safety and feel abandoned by the sporting authorities they believe can help.


The rise of cricket had seemed something of a fairy tale in Afghanistan. The country was only granted affiliate membership by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2001, just a year after the Taliban lifted a ban on the sport. When the Taliban was overthrown soon after, cricket began to flourish, along with other sports like football.


"If we look into the last 20 years, we had war, suicide attacks, we had so many problems, but the only occasion when the entire nation was happy, they were emotionally involved… was during sport," Emal Pasarly, editor of BBC Pashto, told The Sports Desk podcast in August.


"Only sport gave a time or a place where people were happy and they could forget about the rest of what was going on around them."


Cricket fanaticism in Afghanistan grew throughout the 2000s as the men's team began a meteoric rise on the world stage. When they qualified for the 2015 World Cup in Australia, street celebrations broke out across the country. In 2017, they were granted Test status. Players such as Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi are now international stars and are adored across the country.