Women cyclists who fled the Taliban dream of 2024 Olympics

Three women cyclists who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, and were resettled in the UK, have spoken of their dream of competing in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

Arefa, Mina and Parisa, who was part of a team in Afghanistan, have been training twice a week under an expert cycling coach. 

Speaking to the BBC, Mina said of the dramatic collapse of the previous Afghan government, “Suddenly, in one week, everything changed. The light changed to the darkness. We couldn’t imagine our future, we lost hope.”

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Their coach, James Hey, said the trio were “warriors” who had a “fighting spirit”, “tenacity” and “drive”. 

Arefa said she hoped “all the girls in Afghanistan, one day, have a free life.”

On 8 September 2021, less than a month after recapturing Afghanistan, the Taliban banned women and girls from all sporting activities, which gradually extended education and work.