IOC gives Afghanistan ultimatum over women’s access to sport

Photo: National Olympic Committee. June 2021.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Tuesday that allowing women and young girls safe access to sport was a condition for the country’s representation at the 2024 Paris Games.

Female sport in Afghanistan has been crushed since the Taliban took over from a Western-backed government in August 2021.

The IOC executive board expressed “serious concern” and “strongly condemned” restrictions on women after a meeting in Lausanne where it received a full report on the Olympic and sports movement in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

It did not set any deadline, however.

“The specific modalities for the participation of the Afghan NOC delegation and team in the Olympic Games Paris 2024…will depend on the progress made in relation to the fundamental issue of safe access to sport for women and young girls in the country,” it said.

Teams representing Afghanistan must include female athletes living in Afghanistan as well as abroad, the board said, and women should be represented in governing bodies and administration.

The IOC’s warning came a day after Human Rights Watch urged the committee to ban Taliban-run Afghanistan from participating in international sporting events and to halt the funding the IOC gives to the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee until women and girls can once again play sport in the country.

The organization says there is no indication the IOC has applied the framework of its Charter to the human rights crisis for women, and women’s sport, in Afghanistan.

“In view of the harm to Afghan women and girls by the governing Taliban’s ban on sport, and the threats and violence female athletes face simply to train or compete, the IOC should not continue to support or recognize a national committee that discriminates against half of the population on the basis of gender,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

According to Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch: “The IOC always says ‘athletes are the heart of the Olympic Movement,’ but what about the women and girls of Afghanistan?

“They are athletes too, and have not been given meaningful assistance by the Olympic system. They are still waiting for the IOC to stand with them instead of their abusers, the Taliban,” she stated.