KABUL: Afghan female volleyball players called for a change in mindset Thursday at a Kabul tournament marking a rare chance for women athletes to compete in the national spotlight in the deeply conservative, war-torn Muslim country.
The United Nations hosted the tournament as part of a campaign against gender violence in Afghanistan, still seen by foreign observers as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.
“Initially, my father was against my playing volleyball, he threw out my jerseys,” Muzhgan Sadat, a member of the Afghan Red Crescent team, told AFP.
The young business graduate, her head covered in a scarf, said she begged her father to reconsider — and, when he finally saw her play, “he changed his mentality”.
“I urge every single person, please change your mind and don’t look down on women,” the 23-year-old said.
“Please don’t impose your restrictions and oppressions on them. A woman has the same abilities as a man does… Chase your dreams, never give up, fight against restrictions and show your parents that women can be as good as men.”
Shugla Hellali, a specialist on gender issues at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Afghanistan, told AFP she is “optimistic” about women in Afghanistan.
Gender equality in Afghanistan has improved somewhat since a US-led coalition toppled the hardline Taliban regime in 2001, but women still suffer tight restrictions and regular violence.
In March 2015, a 27-year-old woman known as Farkhunda was beaten to death in Kabul after being falsely accused of blasphemy, a case that became a symbol of the endemic violence that women still face.