For girls like Frozan, an Afghan woman and cyclist, riding a bicycle can change a life forever.
It’s a feeling many of us remember fondly: our tight grip on the rubber handles, the quick push on the pedals, and the soft breeze gracing our faces as we took our first bike ride. For many, learning to ride a bike was a rite of passage that marked our first taste of freedom. With each turn of its wheels, a bicycle has the ability to transport the rider both physically and mentally.
Afghan Cycles Documentary
The documentary Afghan Cycles by director Sarah Menzies welcomes us into the lives of women cyclists in various parts of Afghanistan as they navigate treacherous roads both on and off their bikes.
Used for more than sport, women like Frozan, Masoma, and Zahra rely on their bikes to run errands and go to school. Unfortunately, by many in Afghanistan, cycling and participating in sports is perceived as grossly inappropriate behavior for women to display. Woven through the film are heart-wrenching tales of harassment, intimidation, and outright threats these women endure as a result of their simple decision to ride a bike in their communities. In one horrifying scene, a member of the Taliban spouts his belief that women riding bikes were “showing off” and in doing so “makes Islam weak.”
Overcoming Despite The Danger
Despite all these challenges, the women push through. When asked why she continues to cycle even though it puts her life at risk, Masoma tearfully responds by saying “every accomplishment needs a sacrifice in the beginning.”
But it doesn’t take long to see just how much of a positive impact their sacrifices and accomplishments have made in their communities. After a race in Bamiyan, a young boy who watched the race gave high praise of the women cyclists and said he wanted to be like them because he wanted to “ride very fast and get 1st place.” What was so astonishing about this statement was the fact that this boy didn’t see their gender as a hindrance – or at all. He only saw winners.
Women Behind The Film
What makes Afghan Cycles phenomenal isn’t just the story of how these incredible women push the boundaries of what society says they can do in sport and their daily lives. It’s also the women behind the camera that pursued this story and gave these pioneers the opportunity to have their voice heard on a global scale. The approach that both groups of women take to life are ones that could truly save the world if more people gave it a try.
As we see with these cyclists, fighting for what is right is not always popular, but more often than not it is necessary to move society in the right direction. In the same way, using your talents, resources, and privilege as this production crew did to help uplift those who are fighting so hard to make a difference is not only commendable but a huge inspiration to people everywhere.
Riding a bike might seem simple, but so is using our talents to help lift up others around us. As this documentary shows us, both can be positive agents of change.