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News

Azeem Rafiq: 'It's unquantifiable what I've lost'

Former cricketer discusses his antiracism fight on special episode of the Switch Hit podcast

Azeem Rafiq poses for a photo during Middlesex's County Championship match against Derbyshire, Lord's, April 7, 2022

Azeem Rafiq has continued to speak out against discrimination  •  Getty Images

Azeem Rafiq says he will continue to confront racist attitudes within English cricket, even though he can see no end in sight to the ECB's investigation into allegations he made more than two years ago, because he believes "the cost of not speaking up was too much".
It was confirmed on Thursday that the Cricket Disciplinary Committee hearing into charges levelled against seven former Yorkshire players, and the club itself, will be pushed back until the new year to allow for appeals against the process taking place in public.
Speaking to Osman Samiuddin on ESPNcricinfo's Switch Hit podcast before the delay was announced, Rafiq revealed the extent of the backlash he has suffered since accusing Yorkshire of being institutionally racist during his time as a player. Rafiq, who is due to appear in parliament again next month for another hearing of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, has decided to relocate his family to Pakistan after "fearing for his life" in the UK.
"I wanted to release trauma from myself. I've arguably created more trauma," he said. "I feel like I've been pushed to do more. Every time I open my mouth I'm creating trauma, every time I put my head above the parapet I'm making my future worse for myself. After the select committee [in 2021] there was so much hope and I'm an optimist and I still live in hope that things will get better for everyone. But I'm going to unapologetically keep calling it out.
"You can see the cost to me. And I would argue the cost to not speaking up was way worse. I honestly don't think I would be here if I hadn't spoken up... My family sacrificed a lot for my cricket and they thought I was living a dream. The cost of not speaking up was too much."
Rafiq said he continued to experience pushback from sections within the game, who would prefer to paint "me as the troublemaker, me as the problem", but that he remains committed to fighting for greater diversity.
"Did I think that I would have to leave the place I called home for 21 years? No. Did I think my family would be targeted the way they have? No. All it does is it proves - what these people don't realise is that they are continuing to prove my allegations by their actions. I've been vindicated over and over again in processes that have been rigged against me. Because there has been no choice but to uphold the central allegations.
"It's been over two years now and I just don't see an end in sight. Regardless of what it's taken out of me, I've got full trust in Allah. They aren't going to scare me, they are going to push me back, they aren't going to stop me. Because, as I said, the trauma before speaking out was large, but what it is now it's unexplainable. No human being should have to go through what me and my family continue to be put through."
You can listen to the full interview online or by searching for ESPNcricinfo Switch Hit via your preferred podcasting platform.