Freedom to cycle — The female Afghan refugees rediscovering life on the bike in Italy

Israel-Premier Tech helped bring a group of 70 Afghan refugees to Italy in July as part of helping wider resettlement efforts

Female cyclist clips up her helmet
(Image credit: Israel-Premier Tech)

Israel-Premier Tech has released a video documentary charting the progress and first ride of the group of Afghan refugees they helped to evacuate from the Taliban-run country earlier this summer. 

In July, team owner Sylvan Adams met a group of 70 Afghan refugees - mainly female cyclists and athletes - at an airport in Rome after helping to assist in wider efforts to evacuate them from the country. 

Under the Taliban regime many female athletes and women looking to develop their sporting opportunities were no longer safe. 

One of the cyclists, Arica, explains that life in their home country quickly changed. “According to the rules of the new regime in Afghanistan, they say that sport is forbidden for girls,” she said. “If a girl cycles, that girl must be killed by the government or people.” 

Now several months after their evacuation, Israel-Premier Tech has released a video of the group, titled ‘Racing for change, cycling to freedom’ of the women on their first ride in L’Aquila, Italy after fleeing Afghanistan.

“It’s a beautiful day for me,” one rider says as she beams into the camera. Another rider named Zarifa is visibly delighted to be riding again. The 20-year-old competed in races in the Middle Eastern country before the Taliban took control again. 

Zarifa explains to the cameras that life as a female cyclist was difficult before the Taliban returned, although once the group were back in control what started as just initial negativity to women cycling turned into something far more sinister. 

“People always told us how bad it is for us to ride a bike… ‘it’s only for boys’ they used to say,” she said. “Then came the new regime and they started threatening to kill us if we dared to ride again.” As well as cycling, studying also was quickly ruled out as being something open to young women in the region.

After the group initially escaped Afghanistan and Taliban rule, they were forced to wait for 10 months in Pakistan before Italy welcomed them as refugees. Israel-Premier Tech, the Italian government and Italian journalist Francesa Monzone were all instrumental in getting them to safety and making cycling and studying a possibility for them again. 

On seeing the group now settled in L’Aquila, Israel-Premier Tech team owner Sylvan Adams said: “Seeing our Afghans’ gratitude for having been brought to freedom, is truly uplifting, and gives me the strength to continue. This is tempered by the concerns and fears that our saved Afghans feel for their relatives and friends left behind.

“We were only able to save a few but the Talmud tells us that even a single life saved uplifts our world.” 

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