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Following the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban seized control of most of the country including the capital city of Kabul. Ahmadullah Wasiq, Taliban‘s deputy head of the cultural commission, told Australia’s SBS News women will not be allowed to play cricket and other sports because “they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered”.

According to CNN, the United Arab Emirates welcomed 41 Afghan refugees arriving from Tajikistan, including 25 members of the Afghan girls‘ cycling team.

One cyclist, who asked not to be named out of fear, said: “Oh my god, it really is tough to explain our situation in words.

“The main reason I left Afghanistan is because I was not secure as an athlete. I was doing sports in Afghanistan but that is not safe nowadays… I was forced to leave my country.”

Afghan cycling team
Reception center for Afghan refugees who have arrived in Italy on humanitarian flights. Some athletes of the women’s soccer and cycling national team are guests of the center. © Profimedia

Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan’s capital after nearly two decades of conflict. The newly formed government is filled with veterans of the militant group who oversaw the fight against the US-led coalition.

The team’s former captain, Khalida Popal, said: “We used to practice, we used to have competitions, we even used to compete with boys, and we were happy.

“As a girl cyclist, as an athlete, I was doing sports in Afghanistan to stand for the right of humans, mostly girls.

“I want to prove that girls are capable, that girls have the right to do what they want.”

The refugees are being held in the UAE for processing before they will be relocated to Canada, their final destination.