Friday 3 September 2021

Photo of the day - 3: Women's cycling in Afghanistan

This is 25-year old Masomah Ali Zada, an Afghan woman who recently competed in the individual time trial in the Tokyo Olympics, as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team. Her appearance at the Olympics was a real landmark moment in sport. She had taken up cycling in her homeland at a time when rules about women doing sport were relaxed since the regression of the Taliban. Nevertheless, conservative sections of society still voiced their disapproval of women doing sport, and people would even throw stones at Masomah and her sister Zahra when they out cycling. This didn't stop her joining the Afghan national team, but due to persecution by other tribes within Afghanistan (She and her family are Hazara minority.) Masomah and her family were granted asylum in Lille, Northern France, where she is studying engineering at university. Speaking about the Olympics she said,

"It's not just my dream to get to the Olympics, but it is my responsibility to open the door for the other refugees in France. I want to represent the rights of women in all countries and also Afghanistan, who think that they cannot ride a bike. I've received messages of support from around the world with people saying, it doesn't matter that you finished 25th out of 25, you are already a winner because you raced."

That was a very positive thing to see. Sadly, within a couple of weeks all that has changed, as the Taliban have once again taken charge of Afghanistan and women cyclists are living in fear for what will become of them as an imminent ban is imposed on women doing any sport. There is currently a fundraiser taking place to help rescue female Afghan cyclists. It's sad to think that something that we do without thinking about it in the UK, can become a real tour de force in other countries. I hope that women can be taken to a safe place, but I do feel sad knowing that for every woman rescued, there will be hundreds of thousands left behind. 

Here is the link to the fundraiser page

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