This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Spain.
In Afghanistan, one of the most conservative Muslim countries in the world, a group of women defy the societal norm. The rights of women in Afghanistan have come a long way since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001; prior to that, they were excluded from public life almost entirely. In the dark days of Taliban rule, women were barred from education and many basic recreational activities, and were forbidden to leave the house without a male chaperone.
Now, however, opportunities have sprung up once more, and doors have opened. One of those opportunities is participation in sport, and one of the sports which Afghan women have gravitated to is cycling.
The national women's cycling team of Afghanistan is a powerful symbol, in that it requires great fortitude, strength and commitment from its members, while also showing the rest of the country that they can push themselves far beyond their supposed limits. Afghan women are still underrepresented in public and political life, and international observers have witnessed numerous cases of gender violence. The normalisation of a woman's participation in sport is hugely significant in this context.
To go out and train every day is a victory, in that it represents a new form of normality. These photographs give a glimpse into the lives of the women who cycle for Afghanistan – and for their right to dictate their own lives.