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Afghan Stadiums Now for Sports, Not Violence

Ten years ago, the Taliban used Kabul's main sports stadium for public executions. Now, athletes crowd the grounds as more and more young Afghans flock to sports in a post-Taliban Afghanistan.

During Taliban rule, hundreds of Afghans would fill the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, but just not always for sports.

The Taliban used the stadium as a venue to punish and even execute those accused of breaking the law. It did not matter if you were a man or woman, the Taliban publicly punished anyone who did not follow their interpretation of Islamic law.

But since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Afghanistan's Olympic Committee spokesman Mohammad Arif Payman says a lot has changed for sports venues such as the Ghazi Stadium.

"Fortunately, the conditions have changed significantly here in the past 10 years," said Payman. "New venues have been established for sports. And other provinces have their own sports teams as well. Boys and girls are all taking part in sports. These players have medals both at home and abroad."

Ten years ago, Afghan sports teams did not officially participate in international sporting events.

But now, Maihan Wali, the captain of Afghanistan's women’s basketball team, says the teams are introducing the new Afghanistan to the world.

"During the Taliban regime, boys and girls did not have the opportunity to participate in sports, and they were not allowed to serve the country in the social sector," said Wali. "Now that the Taliban is no longer in power, both boys and girls are joining sports teams with enthusiasm. They want to serve the country through sports and earn respect for the country and their families."

With this former venue of violence now a place for friendly competition, young Afghans hope the rest of their country will transform in a similar way.