Swat girls prevented from playing cricket match

A group of Charbagh residents and some prayer leaders on Sunday intervened to halt a women's cricket match at Charbagh Cricket Stadium.
October 06, 2023 | 07:00

They said girls participating in cricket was immodest and considered inappropriate in the locality.

Ayesha Ayaz, a 12-year-old budding athlete, had taken the initiative to arrange the match among girls hailing from Babuzai and Kabal tehsils.

However, before the commencement of the game, several prayer leaders and elders arrived at the venue and prevented the girls from participating in it.

“When the girls from different areas gathered on the ground for the match, some religious people came and angrily forbade the players and organizers to do so. They were yelling and shouting and saying it was immodest for girls to play cricket in the open ground and we will never allow them to do so,” said Saeed Iqbal, an eyewitness.

Later, he added, the imams contacted the local councilor, Ihsanullah Kaki, who also requested the match organizers and female players to leave the area.

Ayaz Naik, one of the organizers, said many female cricket players in Swat wanted to play cricket professionally.

“Many girls contacted us to organize cricket matches for them and make a district cricket team to play first-class matches,” he said, adding that he, his daughter Ayesha Ayaz, and some professional players organized the match at Charbagh Cricket Stadium because construction work was underway at the stadium in Mingora.

He said it was shocking for the girls and organizers when they were stopped from playing cricket in their area.

Local players Humaira Ahmad and Sapna said they and their friends were excited about the match, but when they reached the ground, the locals did not allow them to play.

“Our enthusiasm dwindled as we arrived at the venue and encountered individuals who prevented us from participating in the game. It’s puzzling why some men have reservations about female participation in sports because taking part in sports is our fundamental right, and we aspire to play at a higher level,” they said.

Charbagh Tehsil Chairman Ihsanullah Kaki was contacted by the locals, who endorsed their decision and asked the organizers and players to leave the place.

“The security conditions within the Charbagh tehsil are currently unstable due to the presence of individuals with firearms, who are often spotted in various locations. These individuals send messages to local residents, demanding money and issuing threats. Those residing near the cricket ground are hesitant to venture outside their homes at night, as they fear the presence of militants,” he told Dawn, adding they had also discussed the presence of unidentified persons with the police.

He said the people of Charbagh were not against the female cricket match, but presently the security situation was unstable so they stood against the women’s cricket match. “If they had informed us in advance, we would have organized the match in a ground with boundary walls,” he pointed out.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023

Tarah Nguyen
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