Introducing Masomah Ali Zada – cyclist, aspiring Olympian, and refugee

Masomah Ali Zada escaped Afghanistan to the home of the Tour de France and is looking to pursue her dream of going to Tokyo 2020 as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.
By Ed Knowles

For Masomah Ali Zada, it all changed when a French TV show aired called "Les Petites Reines de Kaboul" ("The Little Queens of Kabul").

Along with her sister Zahra, the documentary showed the difficulties of cycling as a female in her home country.

"In Afghanistan, men think it's unsuitable for a woman to ride a bike, and the Taliban have banned us from sport," said Masomah to France24.

After watching the programme, a retired French lawyer called Patrick Communal arranged for them to come to France on a humanitarian visa and made a successful application for asylum.

"It's very easy for men and women here to ride a bike," Masomah said.

Both sisters are enrolled at the University of Lille and Mosomah has been invited on the IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship programme.

Aged 24, she is training hard in northern France with the hope of qualifying for the Olympics and becoming part of the Olympic Refugee Team.

"By taking part in the Olympic Games, I want to convince those who think a woman on a bicycle is inappropriate or find it strange that a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf is a cyclist that no, it's normal," Masomah said to Paris Match.

Qualification for the Olympics is by no means guaranteed and it will be a huge achievement.

"Today no one can say what their real level is until they have enjoyed a full year of training," says French lawyer Communal, explaining that in Afghanistan the sisters only trained "once a week outside".

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