Female Cyclists Trailblaze Progress in Afghanistan

Afghani cycler Fatima Mahdawi often needs an escape from the violent environment around her — one that has worsened since the Taliban's recent resurgence.

"There are lots of problems in this country we live in," she said. "But whenever I come to the club, it gives me huge energy and joy. I feel like I'm flying."

The club she is referring to is Afghanistan's first freestyle cycling club — where through wheelies and other tricks, many young women like her inspire Afghanistan's future generations.

Specifically, the two-month old, fifty-member club helps teens stay away from drugs, crime, and violence by engaging in a more positive, productive outlet.

Women's rights have made gains since the Taliban's former gender-restrictive rule in the '90s, but there is still work to be done.

"Most of the time people are harassing us because they see girls cycling as a bad thing," said Zahra Ronna, 18. "We are tired of war and we want to practice new things in our lives," she told Reuters Television.

Ronna and other cyclists gather three times a week at a concrete playground in the capital, using metal tables, wooden crates, and boxes to perfect stunts they have seen performed on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media, according to Women in the World.

The club’s founder, Asghar Mehrzada, said the group is attracting a lot of interest from young Afghans, who pay a membership fee of 400 afghanis ($6) per month.

"The big challenge that we face is insecurity. We are not confident of the security to go out and do this sport," Mehrzada said, according to Women in the World.

"We ask people to set their girls free so they can achieve their goals and liberty. Women are not only supposed to work at home," Ronna said.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images