Support Evacuation and Resettlement of Afghan Cyclists

Support Evacuation and Resettlement of Afghan Cyclists

From Shannon Galpin

For the past decade, Afghan women cyclists have created a 'right to ride' movement. These women have challenged gender barriers, inspired the world, and risked their lives to ride a bike. Now they need your help!

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Update #5

3 days ago

October 17. It's been exactly 9 weeks today since Kabul fell and this citizen led evacuation began.

Today marks 29 days since the Taliban banned schools for girls and longer still since they announced that girls sports were banned.

I haven't been as loud on social media or here with updates as I first was. That is not because the evacuation is slowing down or ending (even if media attention is gone) but because it is more dangerous, more complicated, and more expensive now. The Taliban are active on social media and its a thin line - raising awareness and funding to evacuate Afghans, but risk shutting down possible evacuation routes. Every day its a new barrier but the fact is that most of the barriers to the evacuation are not from the Taliban, but from neighboring countries keeping their borders closed or refusing to allow the creation of humanitarian corridors, and from governments like US, UK, Canada, and many many more actively preventing flights and evacuations or preventing refugee resettlement. Evacuation is a difficult enough battle, visas to exit, asylum or even third party visas, are even more difficult than the logistics side.

I have an incredible team of lawyers with Hogan Lovells and iProbono that are helping in a myriad of ways and have been vital to the success of those that have gotten out in multiple evacuations often playing behind on the scenes on other evacuations to help open doors or negotiate with different governments.

This is no longer a humanitarian evacuation, not that it ever really was, it is 'pay to play' now. All of the evacuations cost an enormous amount of money, which has to be paid if we want to get all the athletes out. There are lots of athletes on multiple evacuation lists. But those that are getting out are getting out need funding. Individuals around the world are doing the work I am doing with their groups - we are all doing the work that governments should be doing. I know that I for one am exhausted and would like to focus on my own work and spend time with my daughter. But to do so feels like abandonment. Governments and humanitarian organizations need to do the work we are doing. They need to fund the work we are doing. None of us can continue like this much longer. But what is the alternative?

When it is safe to do so, I will share a ton more information, I already took down a previous post as I felt it shared too much specifics. There are so many stories, so many successes, so many failures, and so much trauma. I am not giving up and I am grateful for all of you that have supported this campaign and are making it possible to keep going. Until it's impossible I'm not walking away.

x
shannon

More Info

This fundraiser goes directly to support the evacuation costs of cyclists and family members and to support those that are still waiting for evacuation and need safe housing and food. This is also created for the long term programming needs like next-stage resettlement costs, mental health and trauma support, and rebuilding and supporting the identity of these cyclists with bikes and bike community. 

The women that founded and grew the 'right to ride' cycling movement in Afghanistan are among the most prominent athletes in Afghanistan over the past decade. They were nominated as National Geographic Adventurers of the Year. They were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. They have been celebrated and feted by the international community but they have not been supported. Now they are in hiding, burning their clothing, and scared of reprisals by the Taliban. They are literally burning their future as are many women across Afghanistan who are burning diplomas and other 'incriminating' items. Young women started their own bike clubs and two young women started the first bike races for women in the entire country. 

Here's how we support the women we have seen in documentaries, in newspapers and magazines, and in museums. We get them out. These women are on evacuation lists but we need to fund their evacuation and their repatriation costs, mental health couseling, and of course, once they have a community, get them BIKES. They never wanted this. We have a moral obligation to support them and help them rebuild their lives. 

As we doubled the goal for our fundraiser and extended the timeline 7 weeks into the evacuation/blockade we are also including the men's cycling team in Bamiyan who are all Hazara and allies of the women cyclists, but were left behind by Afghan Cycling Federation in the recent evacuation. We are also supporting the evacuation of several female activists that are in hiding and at-risk. When we can, we are trying to get family members included to evacuations, but all too often its the athletes or activists on their own because they have been granted visas. We don't want to send people out of Afghanistan to refugee camps if at all possible. 

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Shannon Galpin posted a new update:
3 days ago

Update #6

October 17. It's been exactly 9 weeks today since Kabul fell and this citizen led evacuation began.

Today marks 29 days since the Taliban banned schools for girls and longer still since they announced that girls sports were banned.

I haven't been as loud on social media or here with updates as I first was. That is not because the evacuation is slowing down or ending (even if media attention is gone) but because it is more dangerous, more complicated, and more expensive now. The Taliban are active on social media and its a thin line - raising awareness and funding to evacuate Afghans, but risk shutting down possible evacuation routes. Every day its a new barrier but the fact is that most of the barriers to the evacuation are not from the Taliban, but from neighboring countries keeping their borders closed or refusing to allow the creation of humanitarian corridors, and from governments like US, UK, Canada, and many many more actively preventing flights and evacuations or preventing refugee resettlement. Evacuation is a difficult enough battle, visas to exit, asylum or even third party visas, are even more difficult than the logistics side.

I have an incredible team of lawyers with Hogan Lovells and iProbono that are helping in a myriad of ways and have been vital to the success of those that have gotten out in multiple evacuations often playing behind on the scenes on other evacuations to help open doors or negotiate with different governments.

This is no longer a humanitarian evacuation, not that it ever really was, it is 'pay to play' now. All of the evacuations cost an enormous amount of money, which has to be paid if we want to get all the athletes out. There are lots of athletes on multiple evacuation lists. But those that are getting out are getting out need funding. Individuals around the world are doing the work I am doing with their groups - we are all doing the work that governments should be doing. I know that I for one am exhausted and would like to focus on my own work and spend time with my daughter. But to do so feels like abandonment. Governments and humanitarian organizations need to do the work we are doing. They need to fund the work we are doing. None of us can continue like this much longer. But what is the alternative?

When it is safe to do so, I will share a ton more information, I already took down a previous post as I felt it shared too much specifics. There are so many stories, so many successes, so many failures, and so much trauma. I am not giving up and I am grateful for all of you that have supported this campaign and are making it possible to keep going. Until it's impossible I'm not walking away.

x
shannon

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Shannon Galpin posted a new update:
16 days ago

Update #5

hello Everyone,

I appreciate all the notes and messages of support as this evacuation/blockade drags onwards past the 7 week mark today. While I have been quiet on details let me share that we have gotten down to the last three groups of people on my list. Two groups of Hazara cyclists that were part of the Oqab cycling team that were left off the recent UCI sponsored evacuation because of prejudice and bullying/harassment by the Afghan Cycling Federation. The Federation was upset with me for evacuating a group of 30+ Afghans on a convoy several weeks ago because they said they were not "real cyclists'. The Hazara teams in Bamiyan have always operated independently from the cycling federation but it is this community that spearheaded women's cycling by women for women and with male support. This is also the community that started the first races for women and girls in the entire country back in 2013 long before the federation began including women's racing. This is a longer, more disturbing story that builds upon the past decade of abuse and harassment claims against the federation that I have continued to amplify while supporting the cyclists themselves. We also have the men's cycling team who nobody is trying to help get out, these are Hazaras, they are allies, and they are young athletes that want to continue to live in peace. They are in hiding, many have had Taliban visits, and in some cases we are funding safe houses and food stipends.

Our final groups are families of the original National team members, one has gotten out and others are awaiting evacuation. We also have a handful of other at risk athletes that we have been helping to evacuate and to stay safe who have been in hiding and under direct threat of Taliban reprisals.

There are many evacuation operations in play. Every day it becomes a new puzzle with missing pieces that we need to find. Right now - we have allocated most of the fundraising resources in multiple evacuations logistics, food stipends, and lodging. I deleted the last update with specifics as we realized that any information can potentially jeopardize future evacuations as each solution becomes a way to prevent more people from leaving. So until this is all over I don't want to share more.

We do have visas being processed in multiple countries for our athletes. Few other than the handful that have already arrived in the US will be headed that way because the system is overloaded and broken. We have solutions in the EU and UK and are working to make sure that no one is left in geographic limbo once we do get them evacuated.

Right now, we have solutions for evacuation, but they are all expensive. Organization that have raised millions of dollars are not sharing with our groups so we need to fundraise our own evacuations. On average these are now $5,000 a person and we still have 80 on our list. We have reduced our list drastically which is amazing and due to the work to multiple organizations and individuals all chipping away at our mutual overlaps and coordinated operations.

All that to say, THIS is why we raised the fundraising goal and extended the timeline. It is still going to take several weeks to get these athletes out and several more to relocate safely and then we can start focusing on resettlement and support. It's still the beginning. Thank you for your help and your support. I'm attaching a photo that the Bamiyan based, Oqab team, was happy for us to share that shows you what the Afghan Cycling Federation and UCI left behind because they weren't 'real cyclists'.

Best,
Shannon

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Shannon Galpin posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #3

Thanks to The Lily, you can hear two of Afghanistan's cyclists speak about the current situation. Frozan, one of the original national team members has been living in France, but her family was part of the group of 35 we just evacuated. Sediqa was the captain of the Bamiyan cycling team. She is going to university in India, but she was integral to communication with her team, most of whom we got out as well. I am in near daily contact with both women about the situation and next steps. You can read their interview in The Lily below.

https://www.thelily.com/gdpr-consent/?destination=%2fthese-afghan-athletes-are-devastated-by-the-talibans-ban-on-womens-sports-what-we-built-in-20-years-is-gone-in-five-seconds%2f%3f

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Shannon Galpin posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #2

Friday, September 10 - Day 26 of the evacuation

We increased the fundraiser goal today. We have been able to support the evacuation in many ways with private security, safe houses, and transportation. We have had incredible support with individuals and organizations, especially Hogan Lovells law firm and iProbono, a human rights organization. Last week we got a group of 35 across the border and they are now safely in UAE while they process visas that have been granted by Canada.

We have over 100 more athletes on our current group to evacuate. We cannot share more for obvious reasons. Without your donations, this would be so much more difficult and because of your support we are also able to make sure that cyclists that are in difficult situations when they escaped have financial support to get safe. The banks were closed before and during the evacuation so its important that we make sure we can support every stage of the process that is necessary as best we can.

The President of UCI is confirmed to provide Swiss visas to 24 of our athletes, and I hope that we can work with them to get the rest coordinated as Afghan cyclists are scattered across the globe right now. We have confirmation that cyclists are in France, Italy, US, Uganda, Germany, Pakistan, along with those in UAE that will soon arrive in Canada.

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Shannon Galpin posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #1

Thank you everyone for your incredible generosity, and your patience while we fundraised with radio silence. The priority has been logistics for the past 13 days. The Washington Post has called this a Digital Dunkirk and it is. There is a rebellion connected around the world that has made this evacuation happen remotely. But let's be very clear. This has not been an evacuation for Afghans. It has been a blockade and we have fought tooth and nail for every Afghan to get on a plane. Most of the time, Afghans were not allowed to get through the airport gate to board their plane. Neither were many Americans. It has been a BATTLE to support our Afghan friends and colleagues because they have been humiliated throughout the entire process. It didn't have to be like this. We have had 12 days to get Afghans out, and often these planes were half empty. The same planes we fought to get our cyclists onto the manifests for, left nearly empty because Afghans weren't allowed to enter the airport. I am livid but I don't have time yet because we still have a lot to do. Radio silence is all I can give you as I haven't slept more than a couple hours in the past 12 days. as time zones and chaos don't allow for a break for a minute. But also - because now is not the time to share. Now is the time to protect Afghans lives that aren't on planes. Please know that I see every donation message come through but I cannot reply. I hope to update you more regularly and to share some of the successes. We are half way to our goal. And we are also fundraising off line to set up a fund that will allow the support beyond any evacuation. I will share the purpose of these funds when it is safe to share more details in the coming days. In the meantime we still have a lot of work to do. Today's devastating attacks in Kabul and elsewhere just illustrate how quickly we need to open the blockade. Thanks from the bottom of my broken heart, and stay tuned.

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