I am a British Iranian woman and I’ve been cycling the world for 2 years. I’m currently pedalling across Brazil my 16th country by bicycle. On the 10th September 2016 the Supreme Leader of Iran issued a Fatwa against women cycling in public.
Before cycling the world I was riding and racing for the Iranian National Women’s Cycling Team. On a return flight to Tehran from racing in Kazakstan I knew I had a serious decision to make.
I grabbed my bicycle and rucksack from Azadi Sports Complex and returned to Tehran’s airport to catch a flight to Istanbul. I spent the next 3 weeks cycling Turkey, on my own and in that time I made a life changing decision.
To do what I had always been too scared to do. To travel the world on my bicycle.
I was never going to be the girl who could accept a world of discrimination, bullying and doping for my own personal gain. Walking away from something I had worked so hard for was a tough decision but I followed my heart. I value my life not on personal gain but on the positive contribution I can make to the world as I experience it.
I made formal complaints to UCI, the worlds governing body for cycling sport regarding the discrimination of female riders by the Iranian National Cycling Federation and Iran’s doping. Whilst UCI welcomed the doping information I was informed in writing by their legal department that to pursue the discrimination complaint, I could be liable for costs of investigation and hearings.
Discrimination against women in cycling is not an important issue for the UCI and this is a major contributing factor as to why it exists on such a large scale throughout the sporting world of cycling.
Iran began ‘Clean Tuesdays’, an environmentally friendly campaign which encourages Iranians to ditch their cars and travel by bicycle. This meant on Tuesdays more women were seen cycling in public which was a problem for Iran’s religious leaders.
On the 10th September 2016 whilst I was cycling across Bolivia , the Supreme Leader of Iran issued a Fatwa against women cycling in public saying it goes against Islam.
Women in Iran responded in defiance by posting cycling selfies using the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling. This hashtag movement was created by Iranian women’s rights journalist Masih Alinejad, founder of [ilink url=”http://mystealthyfreedom.net/en/” style=”download “]My Stealthy Freedom [/ilink] campaign for Iranian Women’s rights to have a choice in wearing Hijab.
Women in Iran are not allowed to speak out. Those who do are imprisoned. Right now there is an international campaign to free activist Narges Mohammadi who won awards for her peaceful human rights activities but Iran responded by jailing her for 16 years. Check out and support the hashtag #FreeNarges
Iran does not recognise my British citizenship. Iranian law states you are the nationality of your father regardless of birth country. When I enter Iran I do so knowingly that I give up my rights as a British citizen. For many years I have remained quiet about women’s rights in Iran. If I speak out I cannot return to Iran to visit my Dad and family for I too will be arrested.
My life is amazing and most of it takes place on a bicycle. Cycling provides my physical health and mental well being. It gives me a means of transport that does no damage to the environment. Cycling adds more time to my life! I laugh more. I love more. I am more because of cycling.
I believe with all my heart that every women in the world has the right to cycle, regardless of religion or country. So I can remain silent no longer.
I pedal for every women’s right to cycle. For every women’s right to sing. For every women’s right to choose Hijab. For every women’s right to make decisions without the approval of men. For every women’s right to freedom.
World Bike Girl
2 years – 16 Countries by Bicycle – Solo.
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.