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Cricket camp promotes peace and the right to play in Afghanistan

© UNICEF 2009/ Walther
Samil Hashimi (middle), 16, and his two brothers Farid (left) and Essai (right) after the final match of the camp they attended on the national cricket ground in Kabul.

By Cornelia Walther

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain.

KABUL, Afghanistan, 9 September 2009 – Nearly 50 young people brought together by UNICEF and the Afghan Youth Cricket Support Organization (AYCSO) participated in a cricket camp this month in Kabul, the first in a series of events to celebrate International Peace Day 2009 in Afghanistan.

“My dream for the future is to play for my country. By becoming part of the national cricket team, I may show people outside of Afghanistan that we have strength and beauty here – not only war,” said Samil Hashimi, 16.
“I started to play cricket seven years ago. My family and me were in Karachi, Pakistan, because of the war at home,” added Samil. “Two of my brothers participated in this workshop. I always wanted to become a really good player, to become part of a team, but it is very difficult to get started.”

Playing for peace

Fifty children spent two days with the members of the Afghan National Cricket Team, learning how to bat, bowl and field – all under the flag of peace. The members of the cricket team, just back from successful matches in Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, are eager to give something back to their country.

“When I got to know cricket in a refugee camp in Pakistan, I wanted to play and learn, but there was nobody to show me the way,” said national cricket team member and AYCSO founder Raees Ahmadzai. “Only my love for the game and belief in my country helped me to become what I am today. If there is anything I can do to help make the way smoother for these boys, I am happy to do so.”

© UNICEF 2009/ Walther
A group photo of young cricket players with their trainers, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue and World Health Organization Representative Peter Graaf on the national cricket ground in Kabul.

The young cricketers were enthusiastic to learn rules and insider tricks from the experts. And in spite of the intrinsic competition in cricket, they were sociable throughout the two days. “When one team won, its members told the opposing party: ‘If you lost today, you will win tomorrow,’” explained Mr. Ahmadzai.

“It is difficult to describe how pleased these children were to meet their heroes, to receive the Peace Day training outfit and sneakers,” he added. 

The right to participation

The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989 and ratified by the Afghan Government in 1994. Among the vital rights protected by the CRC are the rights to life, education and health.

The aim of the cricket camp was to celebrate the importance of the right to participation. Sport brings people together by encouraging tolerance and respect. It helps children to develop harmony within themselves and with their peers – regardless of age, ethnicity or political considerations.

Samil’s brothers Farid, 15, and Essai, 10, share their brother’s passion for cricket, but their plans for the future are different. Both still go to school. Farid wants to become an engineer and Essai a doctor. “The past two days proved to myself how strong I can be, that I can get what I want if I team-up with others,” said Farid.

With the support of UNICEF, AYCSO plans to organize similar workshops, giving youths in other areas – especially in war-torn provinces in the south and south-east of Afghanistan – a place to be the children they are. 



CRC @ 20

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