COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BRAIN) – Hundreds of female athletes, including cyclists, fear for their lives in Afghanistan as the Taliban take control of the nation. Shannon Galpin, who has supported women’s cycling in the country for more than a decade, said she was receiving desperate pleas for help from inside the country.
“There’s a level of fear I’ve never heard of,” Galpin told BRAIN on Sunday. “It is the most helpless I have ever felt. I get messages from young women asking for help and crying. They are also men asking for help to pull their families out.”
“There are several athletes hiding. The Taliban are going door-to-door and the women are burning everything – that’s the most heartbreaking part: they literally fade away. They don’t want to have any proof, so they burn. their degrees, their cycling gear, their photos, their family heritage, ”said Galpin.
Over the past decade, Galpin has helped train and fundraise for Afghan cyclists, helping set up a team that has received industry funds and equipment, including 60 bikes donated by Giant / Liv. The team members were then nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now is the time for the industry to step up again, she said.
The immediate challenge is to get around 350 female athletes out of the country, by charter flight or car to Pakistan.
The next challenge is to find nations and communities that will accept refugees.
“What we need now is for the industry at large that celebrated them verbally, by sharing messages and following their stories, now support them more actively” – Shannon Galpin
The third challenge is to help athletes engage in their new community as they recover from the trauma.
The cycling industry can help in every way, Galpin said, but probably more on the last point.
“At best, cycling creates community …. What we need now is for the wider industry that celebrated them verbally, by sharing messages and following their story, now support them more. actively, either financially or by appealing to their members of Congress (to encourage the United States to accept more refugees from Afghanistan) Lawmakers and governors of around 13 states have said their states will accept refugees from Afghanistan .
Galpin is also seeking support from competition groups, such as the UCI and USACycling. Football’s governing body FIFA and its professional players’ union have pressured countries to accept athlete refugees. So far, the UCI has remained silent on the issue.
Galpin is looking for suppliers, retailers and everyday cyclists to help him. Many retailers have supported fundraisers and equipment donation campaigns for the team over the past decade, and have welcomed Galpin on her book tour, and she is calling on them again for ugly.
Creation of a cycling community
Galpin cited Masomah Ali Zada as an example of an Afghan refugee who was accepted into the cycling community in France.
“She and her family are part of their community, she runs in a local team, she speaks French,” said Galpin. Ali Zada participated in the Tokyo Olympics in the refugee team.
“Once settled in, they’ll need bikes and they’ll have to take group rides and learn the language and become more than just their refugee label. They must rediscover their identity as cyclists, athletes and individuals. Too often we see shelters just categorized as refugees, it’s very dehumanizing. “
“Cyclists can help with this support but we are far from it. Now it is more about the intangible: making calls, giving money …”
Galpin, who lives in Colorado, spoke to BRAIN from Scotland, where she is spending time this summer for personal reasons. His immediate concern is helping athletes get to shelters in Afghanistan and then finding ways to help them leave the country.
A crowdfunding campaign dedicated to the rental of charter flights to get people out of Kabul airport has already surpassed its goal of $ 6 million.
Galpin organized a separate campaign which aims to help support female refugee athletes once they have settled in.
“They are going to be stuck without PTSD support… if and when they are resettled, we will need mental health support, they will have to build communities around them.”
This campaign aims to raise $ 100,000. By Sunday afternoon, he had raised over $ 21,000.