AFGHANISTAN. Herat. Afghanistan sportswomen have become a symbol of change for many in a society where even venturing out in public can be a challenge for women. Herat’s female golf players not only need to excel in their field, but they must also navigate family pressures and social taboos, which do not welcome their participation in sports.
Accusations of sexual harassment
In May 2016, there were more than 35 female golf players in the Herat Golf Federation. That number fell dramatically after the head of the Afghanistan Football Federation, Keramuddin Karim, was convicted of sexually harassing a female football player. There are now just 15 girls left in the Herat Golf Federation, and they are under enormous pressure to quit.
Lack of economic support
Herat traditional society makes it harder for many female athletes to continue in their sport. In addition to sexual harassment cases, there is no economic support. They face enormous pressure from their families and society to quit.
Fariba Akbari, a former female player said that she left the games after 4 weeks of training as she witnessed sexism in the form of uncomfortable staring from the men. “I continued despite the family disagreement, but I left the games [because] I saw even political disputes over the selection process,” Akabri said in an interview with Transcontinental Times.
Athlete numbers dwindle
Many women leave the sport after getting engaged or unable to withstand the social pressure to quit, according to Sar-Dar Ahmad Ferdousi, the master trainer for the Afghanistan National Golf Team and the deputy director of the Herat Golf Federation.
“Families will not let their daughters follow golf after abuse cases reported. We also have no official playgrounds for girls, so with the existing challenges, the number are reducing day by the day,” Ferdousi said.
“[We] went to the Kazer-Gha area of Herat, where there is a wide and open space often used for playing golf, but we were told to leave the area by a well-known cleric Mujib-Rahman Ansari who has sought to impose strict dress for women and prevent them from coming to Kazer-Gah area. They made an official statement saying: “if we see someone, girls or boys down the hill of Kazer-Gha, we will implement Islamic court.”
Some female athletes persist in the face of enormous obstacles
Despite the current challenges, some still strive to play golf, but a lack of golf courses and a lack of local government support add further obstacles.
Shukria Amini, a former female golf player says she, “now prefers to focus on her job rather than playing with no facilities and with pressure from community and family. I say it has a direct impact on girls’ decision to leave their favourite sport with all these challenges in Herat traditional society,” Amini said.