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Afghan cyclist who fled Taliban hopes to compete in Tokyo Olympics

"There are people who think it’s their responsibility to stop us.They think that we’re not good examples for other girls"...

A female cyclist from Afghanistan who fled the Taliban is now hoping to compete in the Tokyo Olympics as part of the Olympic Refugee Team.

Masomah Ali Zada, 24, began cycling with a group of young women in her home country and was part of the national team.

A French TV show aired a documentary about the bravery of the athletes called 'Les Petites Reines de Kaboul' ('The Little Queens of Kabul').

However, after the programme was shown, Masomah was subjected to even more abuse and her family were forced to leave the country.

A retired French lawyer called Patrick Communal, who had seen the documentary, helped arrange for them to come to France on a humanitarian visa and made a successful application for asylum.

Masomah and her family had previously been forced to flee the country in 1997 when she was just 18 months old. Nine years later when the Taliban were no longer in power she moved back with her family and began cycling. 

Speaking to the BBC she said: "They (the Taliban) didn’t want to accept that women have the right to cycle.

"There are people who think it’s their responsibility to stop us.They think that we’re not good examples for other girls.

"When I started to cycle it was just my parents who knew.

"Relatives would see me and say where are you going and I would always tell lies, for example, saying I was learning a language or doing a test.

"We always had to have a group of boys who would come and protect us we had to stay in the middle and our coach’s car would always follow us."

Masomah and her team in Afghanistan were also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She said: "My eyes could see the desert, and my skin could feel the wind. When I was on the bike I felt free."

Masomah and her family have claimed asylum in France where she has won an Olympic scholarship for refugee athletes which helps fund her training. 

Masomah added:  "I can show in actions not just in words that there are no limits if one works and if one tries.

"Also I would like to show the countries, who for the first time see a veiled woman who is wearing a scarf on a bike, it's just a question of our choice and they must respect our choice."

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