This blog does not intend to campain in favor of any ideology or cause, except love of biking, but modestly to tell stories and share thoughts and observations from the saddle. However, like all of us, I can be repulsed to a point where I want to share my indignation , or conversly enthused by a deed, a person, a cause.An article in the NYT (dated april 17th 2013) by Jed Lipinski under the title “Giving a push to Afghan women who dare cycle” sort of pushed my buttons.
In Afghanistan, women riding bicycles is “generally considered immoral”.”In the hierarchy of cultural offenses committed by women, it ranks between driving a car and so called “moral crimes” which include running away from home or being spotted in the company of a man who is not a relative”.
Facing death threats, a group of Afghan women decided to set up a national team of female bikers . They already have 45 members, who train daily before dawn dressed in long pants and full sleeves, with head scarves tucked beneath their helmets. Their only hope to break the taboo is to be be recognized by the International Cycling Union, the worldwide governing body of cycle. Which entails gaining points in international races and challenges, which entails buying high end bikes and equipment as well as money to travel. An American woman , Shannon Galpin, has decided to help Afghan cyclists: through her foundation Mountain2Mountain she collects bicyles and gears, tools, shoes, jerseys, and is shooting a film about the women’s team called “Afghan Cycles”.
Galpin notes that currrent attitudes toward female cyclists in Afghanistan are not so different from those in the United States in the late 1880s. Cycling played a role in the history of women’s rights when women started riding around and meeting people without supervision.
Let’s hope that Afghan women will free themselves from their cultural carcan as fast as possible and let us rejoice that the bike, synonym of freedom, can help them in this fight against obscurantism.