Three Afghan women biking again in Harrisonburg, VA.

November 9, 2022

Like many other girls around the world, Razia, Amina and Nasima were determined to make their dreams come true. Even if that meant defying odds and breaking down barriers to pursue prohibited activities for girls in Afghanistan such as biking. Riding their bikes around together without being targeted was the freedom they sought hard, but it did not come easy. 

“Always I faced many problems but one day one guy hit me with a bottle of water, and it was crazy! It was a terrible day, and I was crying. There were many challenges. Some of them I don’t remember,” one of the women told us recently.

They fled Kabul during the power shift last year. Before leaving, they had been able to finish college and all three pursued different careers. Razia graduated with a degree in computer science, and Nasima graduated with a degree in nursing. While Razia and Nasima were able to graduate college, Amina’s education was cut short by the fall of Kabul last year. Prior to the fall, they enjoyed Taekwondo, volleyball and cycling. They knew the new moral code would make it impossible for them to do such exercises, and they were forced to leave like many other Afghans did. They moved to an evacuation camp in Abu Dhabi where they found some freedom to play some volleyball and start their resettlement journey to the United States. 

“We are very happy, and we are proud that we are here. Here we have peace and security. We feel free! Every activity we want, we can do. We have bicycles now, too. Heidi and Aemal helped us to have bicycles and helmets and some equipment,” they told us. Aemal is a CWS staff member in our Harrisonburg, Virginia office, and Heidi is with Village to Village, a CWS community partner. 

In less than two months into their arrival here, they have participated in some Church World Service programs in Harrisonburg. One of these programs connected them to the local cycling community. The women participated in an organized cycling event with our community partner Village to Village. Knowing how far they’ve come; the women already have a plan. In one year, they want to perfect their English skills, and work hard to support the rest of their family. Amina, whose education was cut short in Kabul, now will pursue nursing. Nasima has a nursing degree from Afghanistan, and she is in the process of figuring out how to make those skills workable in the United States. Meanwhile, Razia will pursue an Information Technology course.

“Now we are impatiently waiting for our social security card, because without that I can’t take my driving exam. It makes us crazy,” one woman told us, laughing. “I am calling [CWS staff] asking about social security and I always ask, ‘did you check your mailbox?’”

When they don’t have classes or other appointments, they enjoy the freedom of being outdoors, biking to town, doing some grocery shopping. Drivers move over for them. No one questions their right to ride a bike. They know their way around now. The Afghan women are thankful for those who supported them during this transition. 

“Till now we have seen so many good things from CWS, and we are hopeful to see how we can take more classes in the future and get our careers. It will be nice for us to make friends and have fun on the weekends, too,” they said.