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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Taleban's Olympic plea
Gym in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Boxers and wrestlers have been training hard
Afghanistan's ruling Taleban have pleaded to be allowed to send the country's athletes to the Sydney Olympics.

They have written to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requesting that Afghan athletes be allowed to attend the games as "messengers of peace".

Afghanistan was suspended from the IOC in 1998.


Sports could collapse here and the discouraged athletes could turn to drug addiction

Afghan Olympic official Mohammad Khaled
Taleban officials say Afghan wrestlers and boxers have been training hard and would be disappointed if they were denied a chance to compete at Sydney.

If Afghanistan was banned from the Olympics, "it would be a first since 1936," Mullah Abdul Shukar Motma'in, the Taleban Sports Minister, said.

"Sports could collapse here and the discouraged athletes could turn to drug addiction," National Olympic Committee secretary general, Mohammad Khaled, said.

Dress code

Under the Taleban's strict brand of Islamic law, Afghan men are forbidden from shaving their beards and have to maintain a strict dress code.

This often lands them in peculiar situations.

Afghan doing chin-ups
Afghan sportsmen have to follow a strict dress code
In 1998, three Afghan boxers were banned from a competition in neighbouring Pakistan, because international boxing rules require contestants to be clean-shaven.

More recently, a visiting Pakistani football side was arrested for wearing shorts - which is banned under the Taleban's dress code.

The players were sent home - but not before they had their heads shaven by way of punishment.

Under the Taleban, women are banned from playing sport and fans are not allowed to clap or cheer but simply shout "God is great".

Most of the country's crumbling sports stadiums now fill up during public executions, which are fast becoming Afghanistan's biggest public spectacle.

Disappointed

The ban on Afghanistan from participating in international sporting events such as the Olympics and the Asian Games stems from the country's complete international isolation.


I spent months working hard, but it has been of no use

Wrestler Ghulam Dastgir
Only three countries recognise the ruling militia.

But for many of Afghanistan's athletes, the ban has come as bitter disappointment.

Ghulam Dastgir, 22, is a member of the national wrestling team and says it is his dream to participate in the Olympics.

"But I don't see my dream ever coming true. I spent months working hard, but it has been of no use," he said.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | South Asia
Football tour cut short
26 Oct 98 | South Asia
Boxing ban on bearded Taleban
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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