• Afghan cyclists take part in a cycling training session on June 28, 2017 in Guehenno, western France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The UCI - together with Israel Start-Up Nation co-owner Sylvan Adams and several other people and organizations - helped organise the extraction of 165 Afghan citizens from Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s return to power.
By
SBS Cycling Central

12 Oct - 10:23 AM 

Since the withdrawal of US forces from the country on August 30, there have fears of reprisals for the small population of female cyclists and people that supported them. Female riders trained and raced in the face of Taliban bans on such activity and consistently faced social ostracisation and violence.

A project to see the groups in danger resulted in 165 people being relocated to a number of countries around the world to avoid persecution. 

"A vast operation carried out in conjunction with Sylvan Adams, owner of the UCI WorldTeam Israel Start-Up Nation, the NGO IsraAID and also with help from various governments, the Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC) and FIFA led to the evacuation of 125 people, all of whom have been able to reach Europe via Tirana in Albania. That group included including female cyclists and members of cycling management, artists, a judge, a number of journalists and human rights campaigners," read the UCI statement. 

All told, a total of 165 people “have been able to leave the country as part of the efforts of the UCI and its partners in the aftermath of the recent events.”  

The UCI said that 38 people have arrived in Switzerland and the organization – which is based in Aigle – is hoping that they will join the UCI World Cycling Centre there. They would follow in the footsteps of Masomah Ali Zada, the Afghan refugee cyclist who competed at the Tokyo Olympic Games for the IOC Refugee Team in the women's individual time trial. 

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Masomah Ali Zada (Refugee Olympic Team) was the first rider away in the Olympic women’s time trial, with her journey to make the start line and the message she sends to world just as inspiring as the winners on the day.
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Masomah Ali Zada is on a mission to reform attitudes and bring a new perspective throughout the cycling world and particularly in her home nation of Afghanistan after being selected to ride in the Tokyo Olympics time trial as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) refugee athlete.

“It is very important for the UCI to make a commitment to the members of the cycling family who are suffering due to the current situation in Afghanistan, and I am delighted that our efforts in this respect are providing opportunities for the people concerned in decent living conditions,” UCI President David Lappartient said in a statement. 

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to the governments of Switzerland, France, Canada, Albania, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, and other countries which have worked on this project. I would also like to thank Mr Philippe Leuba, Head of the Department of the Economy, Innovation and Sport of the Canton of Vaud, who has been involved in the operation since the fall of Kabul and spent the whole of last week in Tirana in order to facilitate the practical and administrative procedures for their entry into Switzerland.

"I would also like to thank Mr Osama Ahmed Abdullah Al Shafar, UCI Vice-President and President of the Asian Cycling Confederation, for his decisive commitment to the operations that are currently under way, and of course IsraAID and its CEO Yotam Politzer, and Sylvan Adams who presented the project to IsraAID and financed the evacuation.

"I would also like to acknowledge and pay tribute to the Afghan cycling community, who worked under the aegis of our National Federation and of their President Fazli Ahmad Fazli to provide crucial help with the evacuations.”