Life for women in Afghanistan has changed a lot in the last decade. One group of women in particular has managed to “break away from the pack,” but not without encountering some serious obstacles along the way.
NPR has the full story here, but read on for a summary of Peter Breslow’s May 2, 2014, article, “Afghan Female Cyclists: Breaking Away, And Breaking Taboos.”
A former competitive rider and the founder of the men’s team, Abdul Sadiq, recently formed Afghanistan’s only women’s bicycling team. He felt inspired to form a women’s club a few years ago when his daughter first expressed interest in learning to ride.
He says, “…after my daughter started cycling, the neighborhood girls became interested in cycling, and then the Afghan media did a report on us and all of a sudden we had a flood of women.”
According to Sadiq, there are now around a hundred young women involved in cycling in Afghanistan, with about 10 or so skilled enough to compete. In fact, the small group that forms the Afghan National Cycling Federation will soon travel to Kazakhstan for the Asian Cycling Championships.
Clad in full-length tights and baseball caps to cover their bodies and hair, the women ride carbon fiber racing bikes thanks to the nonprofit group Mountain 2 Mountain, which has provided the group’s gear for the past two years.
While they’re making a splash abroad, the cyclists are still looking for acceptance at home. Riding in their own country, they dodge traffic, honks, open-mouth stares, stones, slingshots. One cyclist, the assistant coach and lead rider Marjan Sadeqi, was even rammed by a guy on a motorbike. Though she was injured for a whole month, she managed to get back on the bike and is cycling again.
For more on this story, head over to NPR.