Afghan cyclists defend their freedom to compete in the Alps

Young Afghan cyclists battled on Sunday in the Swiss city of Eagle, headquarters of the International Cycling Union (UCI), their country’s road cycling championship, A test that could not be taken in Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s coming to power, where women, after withdrawing from the public sphere, also stopped playing sports. The 50 runners, all living outside their country, stood with the black, red and green flag of Afghanistan overthrown by the Taliban before they left. with their bikes from the same UCI headquarters to contest the 57-kilometre race, with only 72 meters of lag Although running across the alpine landscape.

Among the participants, Masoumeh Aizadeh, 26 years old, has lived in Lille (France) since 2017He hoped that this tournament would send a message to Afghan women that “they are not alone”, while at the same time warning the world that it must respond to the oppression experienced by Afghan women with more than words. “Unfortunately for the women of Afghanistan, sports today are forbidden, and what girls today dream of is being able to go to school, competition is already completely unimaginable,” she commented. “Because on a bike and running in the streets of Kabul, I felt very free,” said the runner Evi, who confirmed that after playing many sports, she chose to devote herself to cycling.

“We hope this race will send a message that the world must help the women of Afghanistan with more than just words, it is not enough for them to tell us that they are sad for us,” Alizadeh added, the youngest of three sisters competing today in the championship, and the only one who participated in the Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020). Her sister Zahra was also happy to be able to compete in the tournament, even if she was far from her country, and above all to be able to meet some of her fellow athletes, as some of them, due to the difficulties they face. The country he’s going through, he hasn’t been able to see them for five years. This race is very important, because if we share it on social networks, the women who stay in Afghanistan will know that this competition is still there.And that it is still possible for Afghan women to play sports, even if it is in other countries. “It will give them hope,” he told Evie.

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‘It’s a message of hope’

Of the 50 riders today (22 in the senior class and 28 in the 23 sub-class) 22 live and train in Italy, 11 in Switzerland, 10 in Canada, four in France, two in Germany and one in Singapore. Many of them had to live a real journey to leave their country after the Taliban came to powerIt is something they achieved after months of procedures and failed evacuation attempts, in which the UCI and politicians from various countries, including the United States, Canada and France, participated. At first we tried to take them by bus to neighboring Tajikistan, and when three buses were already at the border, the permit was it had to be done by air, without controls and in the middle of nowhere,” UCI President David LaPartient told Efe.

The head of the International Cycling Union was honored this Saturday by the authorities in Afghanistan in front of the Taliban for his efforts to preserve the Afghan women’s sport. “This tournament, more than just a sports competition, is a message of hope for the women of Afghanistanto whom we tell that we still remember them, we tell them that it is still possible to play the sport, and we hope that one day the race will return to Afghan soil,” Lappartint added.

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