The 12 members of Afghanistan’s national women’s cycling team have been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The Kabul-based team was shortlisted alongside 373 others. The nomination comes after 118 Italian members of parliament named the women as the ‘human representation of the bike and its power to bring about social justice’.
Cycling the 40 minutes from central Kabul to the team’s training tracks is a dangerous feat. ‘Some people believe women are meant to stay at home,’ one team member told Total Women’s Cycling. ‘They say a bicycle can destroy a girl’s future. If we listened to them we would never leave our houses.’
Coached by the country’s first professional cyclist, Abdul Sediq, the women ride in modest lycra, loose-fitting shirts and hijabs beneath their helmets. They occasionally train alongside the national men’s team to boost endurance and reduce the risk of verbal or physical attacks.
‘The Nobel Peace Prize nomination recognizes the bravery, courage and ability of these women to take back the streets and their rights on bikes,’ says Shannon Galpin, whose nonprofit Mountain2Mountain offers the support that the Afghan women’s cycling programme does not receive from the National Olympic Committee.
Regardless of the Prize’s outcome in October, the team is empowering Afghan women with each pedal stroke.