Afghanistan Needs Us. Here is What I am Doing to Help.

I was born during the Taliban regime’s rule in the 1990s. After spending most of my childhood as a war refugee, my family returned to Afghanistan in the 2000s during a period of hope and stability. For a couple years while I attended classroom inside tents, the new Afghan government repaired my bomb-scarred school. As the walls of that once reduced-to-rubbles school went up, everywhere people too were healing from the aftermath of a civil war and subjugation to the Taliban’s draconian laws. After decades of war, it felt, we were finally on track to build a nation on the foundations of democracy, human rights, and equality. And we achieved a great deal towards that.

Now as the Taliban try to take over our country once again, we each need to do our part to protect our freedom, values, human rights, schools, roads, cultural sites… but more importantly, our promise to leave behind a better country for our future generations. We cannot allow history to repeat itself and the cycle of violence and enslavement of our people to become the norm of life again.

There will not be a more important moment in our lives than the current hour where what we do for our country could guarantee us having a country at all. This is the test of our time.

As an Afghan cyclist, I asked, how can I use my passion for cycling to help my country? And this is my answer.

Next Tuesday, July 27th, I will climb the elevation of Afghanistan’s tallest mountain, Naw Shakh (24,580 feet), in a single day on my bike to pay tribute to the victims of the horrific May 8th school bombing in Kabul and raise funds for student survivors. To reach the elevation of Naw Shakh will require me to climb the Appalachian mountain pass in the state of Vermont 21 times over for a total distance of 115 miles. This will be the hardest bike ride I will ever do, and through it I aim to raise 24,580 dollars (exactly the elevation of Naw Shakh) to help the school. My crowdfunding campaign has already raised $6,000, and with 10 days to go, I need your help to reach my goal.

How this initiative was born

In 2020, when bike races were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, cyclists everywhere turned to personal challenges of epic nature to find meaning and purpose for staying fit. The most popular of these challenges, “Everesting”, is climbing the elevation of Mount Everest (29,030 feet) in a single day on a bike, which takes an enormous effort.

As a former competitive Afghan cyclist, I wanted to do this too. But instead of Everest, I had a better idea: why not climb Naw Shakh, Afghanistan’s tallest peak? Living in the U.S, I have always had a hard time with the false image outsiders have about my homeland. Countless times, people have called Afghanistan, which is an incredibly mountainous country, a “sand desert.” Doing a Naw Shakh ride, I figured, was an opportunity to educate people about Afghanistan’s mountains. 

Then on May 8th, when terrorists targeted Sayed Ul Shuhada girls’ high school in Kabul I knew I wanted to dedicate this ride to the victims and surviving students. Just a day before the attack, I had an online class with some of the students. One of them got injured in the bombing. At a time when the Taliban are forcing school closures for women across Afghanistan, I am inspired to use my occupation in cycling to support education for girls. At the end of this ride, I will hold a candlelight vigil and some friends are joining for part of the ride to show solidarity.

Naw Shakh peak by Feroogh via Instagram
Mount Naw Shakh in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province stands tall at 24,580 feet. Photo by Feroogh via Instagram.

Why is this important

The attack on Sayed Ul Shuhada shook the entire world. About one hundred student lives were taken in an instant. It was the same kind of attack that almost took Malala’s life. Except these students were not so lucky to live. The unspeakable size of the death toll showed the length to which terrorists would go to impose their views—stopping girls’ education—on our people. This was an assault on Afghanistan and its future generation. Therefore, standing with Sayed Ul Shuhada should become a national cause. We must do so much for the school until it’s clear to the perpetrators that their crimes cannot be tolerated. That if they destroy, we will build back stronger.

Then there is remembrance. Because it has become very easy for Afghans to die, before we can fully process the grief from one attack, we are forced to forget about it as another attack rocks us to our core. This constant induction of trauma into our collective psyche has reduced the worth of human lives to numbers only. We need to change that if we have any hope for the future. Collectively, we must show terrorists that if it is so easy for them to take innocent lives, we will not forget about those lives so easily. That if they can take human lives in an instant, we will honor those lives for years until we have made it clear that we care about every single one of the victims. The students who died in this attack were fully realized humans, each with a dream for themselves and Afghanistan. Their loss cannot fall out of our national discourse because if it does, then attack after attack, we have only learned how to mourn and not much else. By doing this ride, I will keep the candles lit for the victims of Sayed Ul Shuhada.

And lastly, the school needs help! After talking with the principal, I learned that their most urgent need is addressing students’ trauma. Many students have lost classmates and friends to the attack. To help students heal, feel safe and welcomed again in their classrooms, the school wants to kick off a series of fun workshops and activities. Therefore, the funds I raise will go towards implementing school-wide initiatives to bring joy and excitement back to the school.

I need your help to make this campaign a success. Please donate and share far and wide.

Please use this Social Media Kit to share my campaign. I have written the language to make sharing easy for you. Simply copy & paste the text on your social media platforms. Feel free to use this image.

Twitter: Help #Afghan cyclist @afaridnoori’s fundraiser to support #SayedUlShuhada girls school in Kabul that terrorists bombed in May. Thru his memorial 12-hr bike ride for victims, he aims to raise $25K to help the school keep its doors open. Donate & learn more: https://bit.ly/3ivfeLL

Facebook & Instagram: With all the dark news coming out of Afghanistan these days, here is something positive you could support. Afghan cyclist Farid Noori will climb the elevation of Afghanistan’s tallest mountain, Naw Shakh (24,580 feet), in a single day on his bike to pay tribute to the victims of the horrific #SayedUlShuhada school bombing in Kabul and raise funds to help the school provide trauma counseling and re-entry programs for surviving students. On May 8th, just as female students were exiting Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school, a bomb inside a parked car went off at the school’s entrance. As hundreds of students ran away to the street, two more explosions took place, instantly taking many lives. In the end, nearly one hundred students—mostly girls—died, and another one hundred were injured. Just a day before the attack, Farid had an online class with some of the students, one of them was injured in the bombing. Now, he is taking on this challenging bike ride to honor the lost lives and help the school keep its door open. Please make a generous donation today and share this with your network to help Farid meet his goal. https://bit.ly/3ivfeLL #NawShakhSummitChallenge #EducationWillPrevail #NawShakh’in4Education

Thank you for donating, sharing, and taking the time to read this.

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