Dozens of Afghan cyclists fear they will be left behind following an international evacuation effort aimed at bringing to safety the country’s nationals victims of targeted gender-based violence at the hands of the Taliban before the withdrawal deadline of the US military was reached on August 31.
Cycling news understands that there were over 200 women and men who have contributed to their Ride Revolution in recent years, in need of evacuation. Small groups of evacuees, more than 50 vulnerable Afghans, have been confirmed to have successfully resettled in locations across North America and Europe. These include members of the Afghan Cycling Federation and members of the First National Women’s Cycling Team.
However, dozens of female cyclists, traveling long distances from rural areas, were unable to reach the evacuation center in time for the deadline, and the center is now closed.
These women are now at risk of targeted gender-based violence and face new logistical challenges in the process of resettlement outside of Afghanistan.
“There are 220 women who cycle in the Federation, as well as mountain bikers and BMX cyclists. Right now there are about 70 athletes that I am trying to evacuate. There are also family members of the original national team cyclists who live in Europe as refugees, ”said Shannon Galpin, a human rights activist who supports women and girls cycling in the country. Afghanistan since 2013.
Galpin is working alongside the effort to add vulnerable Afghans to international evacuation lists and has created a fundraising to help cover costs associated with evacuation and resettlement of people fleeing Afghanistan.
“The closure of the airport has not changed the pace of evacuations, only the logistics. He’s still available 24/7 across multiple time zones and catches an hour or two of sleep at night. It’s day 17 and we have several bands that I’m working on to get out.
A source close to the evacuation efforts said Cycling news that a group of cyclists awaiting departure narrowly escaped double explosions outside Kabul airport last Thursday, and that they are unharmed. The Islamic State suicide bombing killed more than 100 people, including 90 Afghans and 13 US servicemen, as reported in the Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.
Thousands of people desperately wanted to flee Afghanistan ahead of the August 31 US military withdrawal deadline, after the Taliban took control of large swathes of the country 18 days ago on August 15.
The Taliban also took control of all major airports during this time, except the Kabul airport, but getting to that hub was dangerous. In addition, the Taliban tried to prevent the exodus by preventing its citizens from accessing the road leading to the airport.
Kabul airport has now been closed and international efforts have continued to bring vulnerable Afghans to the landlocked borders of Iran, Pakistan and Asian states, according to a report released on Reuters Wednesday.
The Taliban imposed extreme restrictions on women’s freedoms when they last held majority control of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. Now that they have regained control of large areas of the country and any progress that had taken place. been made towards gender equality and women’s freedoms – such as the rights to employment, education and sports, including cycling, have been suppressed.
An international effort formed to speed up the evacuation process for vulnerable Afghans, including sportswomen and cyclists, who have now become targets of Taliban violence. Sports organizations around the world, including the UCI, have called on governments to urgently evacuate female athletes.
“If US passport holders had difficulty getting through the airport gate, it was almost impossible for Afghans. When they finally got confirmation that they had won the lottery ticket to get a seat on a plane, the majority were refused entry at the airport, ”Galpin wrote in an Instagram update. .
“They were humiliated, they were mistreated, they were deliberately told false information. The planes left half empty and there wasn’t just one or two. We cuddled, begged and jumped through endless hoops that shifted hourly to guide individual Afghan families through the gauntlet of the airport gate. The rules changed and we adapted, they changed again we still adapted, but it was clear that the game was: prevent the Afghans from boarding the planes sent to evacuate them.
“I wanted to share that there are 12 members of the national team and 40 other young women from the Afghan Cycling Federation who have successfully completed the challenge. We have original leaders of the first generation of safe cycling. We have families who have been separated in recent years. “
Cycling news understands that UCI President David Lappartient is working with the authorities to find the best solution to protect the athletes and their families who are in danger in Afghanistan. In addition, the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI), CPA Women, ACCPI (Association of Professional Italian Cyclists) and the president of ASD Road To Equality were involved in some of the evacuations.
Private efforts are also underway to help evacuate vulnerable Afghans from Afghanistan.
“We cannot be completely happy yet,” said Alessandra Cappellotto, head of CPA Women. “Of course, we are happy for the female athletes that we were able to save, but we are still extremely concerned for those who are still there. We really hope that all the athletes will be made safe through the international channels. “
For more information or to donate visit the Fundly fundraising page Support the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan cyclists.
To learn more about how you can help, click the daily updated resources link: Resources to help Afghan refugees