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Afghan women cyclists are in hiding and ‘under imminent threat’ from the Taliban

The athletes are burning their gear in fear of being discovered before they can evacuate

Photo by: Shannon Galpin

As the Taliban has regained control of Afghanistan, a prominent group of women who worked to challenged gender and cultural barriers through cycling are being targeted by the Taliban.

Shannon Galpin, an activist who has been supporting Afghanistan’s national women’s cycling team single 2013, says that all these athletes, and many of their families, are looking to evacuate the country as soon as possible.

“The women that founded and grew the ‘right to ride’ cycling movement in Afghanistan are among the most prominent athletes in Afghanistan over the past decade,” she writes in a fundraiser post. “They have been celebrated and feted by the international community but they have not been supported.”

The cyclists, who are the subject of the 2018 documentary Afghan Cycles, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and as National Geographic Adventurers of the Year. They have become high profile figures, which makes them more at risk of being targeted by the the Taliban.

Galpin says these cyclists are hiding, burning their cycling clothes and are scared of reprisals by the Taliban.

“They know they are targeted. Some are in hiding and under imminent threat. They’re all requesting immediate evacuation,” Galpin told Bicycling. She set up a crowdfunding campaign to help evacuate and resettle as many Afghan women cyclists as possible. The women are currently on evacuation lists but there will be many costs related to their evacuation and their repatriation costs and mental health counseling.

“Of course, once they have a community, get them BIKES,” writes Galpin. “Here’s how we support the women we have seen in documentaries, in newspapers and magazines, and in museums. They never wanted this. We have a moral obligation to support them and help them rebuild their lives.”

The average cost of an evacuation flight is $1,900. As of Aug. 22, Galpin’s Support Evacuation and Resettlement of Afghan Cyclists Fundly has raised $18,771 of the $100,000 goal with 57 days remaining. She also shared a list of resources for those looking to help Afghan refugees.

Update: the fundraising goal has been increased to $250,000 with left days left