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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Afghan Female Cyclists: Breaking Away, And Breaking Taboos

On a recent day, just west of Kabul — where the city's sooty sky gives way to fresher air — Abdul Sadiq coaches four young members of the Afghan National Cycling Federation. They're working on their riding technique while dodging the free-form traffic.

"The road is very narrow. Make sure you don't get into an accident, as you can see the cars are coming," the former competitive cyclist tells them, amid zooming vehicles and honking horns.

They're at Qargha Lake, whose aquamarine waters sit below a snow-sprinkled mountain backdrop of 13,000-foot peaks. It was here in 2012 that Taliban insurgents attacked a resort, killing 18 Afghans.

But this day is all about riding: The cyclists wear long-sleeve jerseys and full-length tights — and draw hoots, honks and open-mouth stares when they pedal past.

These aren't ordinary riders: They're members of Afghanistan's only women's cycling team. And in this deeply conservative country where women have long been confined to the shadows, they face more dangerous obstacles than chaotic roads.

[Continue reading at NPR]

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