Israeli cycling team hires exiled Afghan champion: ‘I’ll race for all women in Afghanistan’

Afghanistan's national cycling champion Fariba Hashimi (R) meets the owner of Women’s WorldTour team Israel – Premier Tech Roland, Sylvan Adams, in Aigle, Switzerland, October 23, 2022. (Noa Arnon/courtesy)
Afghanistan's national cycling champion Fariba Hashimi (R) meets the owner of Women’s WorldTour team Israel – Premier Tech Roland, Sylvan Adams, in Aigle, Switzerland, October 23, 2022. (Noa Arnon/courtesy)

An Israeli cycling team has recruited exiled Afghan athlete Fariba Hashimi, a day after she won her national championship — held in Switzerland since the women’s sports event has been banned by the ruling Taliban.

Hashimi, 19, and her sister Yulduz — who took second place in the event — fled Afghanistan days before the ultra-conservative Taliban entered Kabul last year and took over the country, carrying out a crackdown on women’s rights.

Now building a new life in Italy, Fariba Hashimi has accepted an invitation to join Women’s WorldTour team Israel – Premier Tech Roland, extended by the team’s owner Sylvan Adams, according to a statement on the team’s behalf.

The statement says Yulduz will join the team as well next year, “with the announcement of a U23 Continental team in the works.”

“We are making history here as these two brave women become the first from their country to reach this level of the sport,” Adams says. “It is part of our commitment to helping young cyclists from all over the world – from developing nations to war zones.”

Afghanistan’s national cycling champion Fariba Hashimi (2R) and her sister Yulduz (2L) receive their contracts from the owner of Women’s WorldTour team Israel – Premier Tech Roland, Sylvan Adams, in Aigle, Switzerland, October 23, 2022. (Noa Arnon/courtesy)

“I can’t lie – it’s so exciting but it’s pressure, too,” says Fariba Hashimi. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would get this opportunity to ride for a WorldTour team and a chance to race in the Tour de France.

“I will take the challenge head-on and race for all the women in Afghanistan. My country today is dangerous for many of the women living there. Women are not free to live and thrive as they wish, but if they see me riding in the TDF with the Afghan colors they will see that everything is possible.”

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