Qatar’s women’s basketball team leaves the court after forfeiting their game against Mongolia during the Asian Games in Korea
Elham Asaad Buaras
Qatar have pulled out of the women’s basketball competition at the Asian Games in South Korea after refusing to abide by rules by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) preventing them from wearing hijabs.
The Qatari players had been asked to remove their head coverings before their opening group game against Mongolia on September 24, but chose to pull out of the match instead.
According to FIBA rule players cannot wear “headgear, hair accessories and jewellery”.
With no sign of the rule being relaxed ahead of their next scheduled match against Nepal on September 25, Qatar decided to withdraw from their remaining games.
A spokesman for Qatar’s National Olympic Committee announced: “We have decided not to take part in the remainder of the Asian Games women’s basketball competition.”
Human Rights Watch told The Muslim News FIBA should prove why Qatari players should not wear headscarves.
“We oppose any general ban on wearing of headscarves and onus should be on the regulator to prove why a ban is necessary on the basis of health and safety,” it said.
“In the case of basketball, it’s difficult to see how a ban on the headscarf is anything other than an unnecessary restriction on the players’ rights to religious freedom and personal autonomy.”
Competition at the Asian Games is conducted under the regulations of the sports’ international governing bodies, meaning athletes in other sports are free to wear hijabs. Basketball remains the exception.
FIBA said earlier this month it held discussions on the issue and was introducing a two-year “testing phase” on what players can wear, though that only applies at the national level, not international competitions such as the Asian Games.
Qatari player Ahlam Salem Al-Mana said: “We have to take this stand. We knew about the hijab ban but we have to be here. We have to show everyone that we are ready to play, but the International Association is not ready.”