Oct 22, 2021 - News

University of Arkansas grad student saves Afghan cyclists

Afsana Nawrozi and Farid Noori, both from Afghanistan, participate in a panel discussion about getting cyclists out of the country now controlled by the Taliban.
Afsana Nawrozi and Farid Noori, from Afghanistan, participate in a panel about getting cyclists out of the country controlled by the Taliban. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Farid Noori believes in the power of bikes as a tool for gender equality and freedom.

What's happening: His organization, MTB Afghanistan, recently helped 18-year-old Afsana Nawrozi get a student visa so she could leave Afghanistan. She faced constant ridicule and potential death now that the Taliban are in power.

  • Nawrozi was a target because of her gender and sport. She has been on the Afghan women’s national cycling team for more than two years.

The two participated in a discussion yesterday in front of 80 members of the NWA cycling community.

  • Both were born and raised in Afghanistan.

Driving the news: Noori started MTB Afghanistan as a way to fund and encourage cycling in his home country. The nonprofit has pivoted to fundraising to help 45 Afghan cyclists out of the country. Noori is also a graduate student at U of A.

  • 32 of the Afghan cyclists are women and face the same fatal risks as Nawrozi if they don't get out, Noori told Axios.
  • Noori knows most of the people in the group since his organization has helped them get into the sport.

Context: $150,000 of a $250,000 goal has been raised so far. All donations go to the Afghanistan Cyclist Evacuation and Resettlement fund with the Human Rights Foundation, which will coordinate the evacuation process.

  • Still, the cyclists may wait months for visas due to backlogs and may have to pass through another country before they get a chance to see Bentonville.
  • Noori and others in the cycling community hope the refugees will choose to settle in NWA because of its mountain biking scene, but they will be free to go wherever they please.

State of play: Nawrozi is one of the first recipients of MTB Afghanistan's efforts and was in NWA for a few weeks before moving on to her new home in Sedona, Arizona.

Flashback: Nawrozi began cycling when she was 7. She had to steal moments in the saddle when her male cousin took a nap. The two shared one bike.

  • She even cut her hair and dressed as a boy for part of her life in Kabul.
  • Nawrozi eventually began riding competitively and wants to continue riding no matter the cost.

"A woman on a bike is the ultimate expression of freedom [in Afghanistan]," Noori told Axios.

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