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FTW Syria set to host Women for Peace cycle ride over Easter weekend

‘Follow the Women – Women for Peace’ cycle ride
Syria – Lebanon – Palestine - Jordan
April 7th-19th, 2007

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

SYRIA SET TO HOST ‘WOMEN FOR PEACE’ CYCLE RIDE WITH
SUPPORT FROM HER EXCELLENCY MRS ASMAA AL-ASSAD

International riders set for third ‘awareness’ ride around the Levant;
‘Follow the Women’ campaign aims to bridge cultural voids in Middle East

DAMASCUS (Syria): The city of Aleppo in Syria is set to host the start of a 12-day women’s cycle ride for peace over the Easter weekend (April 7th-8th), with the full support of Her Excellency Mrs Asmaa Al-Assad, Syria’s first lady, who took part in a similar ride in 2005.

The event will begin from Aleppo on Saturday, April 7th and day one heads towards Saint Sermon castle, 35km to the west of the city. On Sunday, April 8th, the riders move north and on to Lattakia and Oum Altyour on a 45km section. The route then passes through Lebanon, Amman and Palestine, before finishing in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Thursday, April 19th.

It was inspired by visits to the deprived Palestinian territories, which led to the formation of the ‘Follow the Women’ organisation by former European Women of the Year, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of the Follow the Women organisation, Detta Reagan, and the idea of a group of women cycling across countries in the Middle East to raise awareness of the unstable situation in the region.

Her Excellency Mrs Asmaa Al-Assad has been an integral factor in establishing the event aimed at bringing female groups together and putting the plight of women and children in certain areas of the Middle East into the public spotlight. Syria is keen to build its relations with the western world and this event has received the backing of Areeba, the leading Syrian telecommunications company.

“We are delighted to support this exciting and every valuable project,” said Fares Kallas, public relations manager for Areeba Syria. “Follow the Women stand for many valuable causes and it was an obvious decision for Areeba to come on board.”

A large number of women cycling in the Middle East is an unusual sight and the ‘Follow the Women’ organisation hope to raise awareness of the plight of women in parts of the region affected by conflict. The organisation also hopes to raise money to support women and children in the Middle East.

“Follow the Women’ members come from 35 countries and all believe that it is possible to have a lasting peace in the region. The group aims to show solidarity with Arab women in the Middle East, to change the perception of the international community and to set up a counselling centre in Ramalla, in co-operation with the Palestinian Youth Union.

Her Excellency Mrs Asmaa Al-Assad joined 260 women from 35 countries in 2005 to promote a ‘Follow the Women’ peace ride. She rode her bike for over 40km in baking heat and temperatures in excess of 35 degrees centigrade to highlight the country’s intention of changing the western world’s perception of the area. The ride took place between Deraa and Busra, although this Easter’s ride will be centred around Aleppo.

Two years ago riders ranged from 16 to 70 years of age and organisers are expecting a similar multi-national field next weekend, with students, businesswomen and housewives set to join the ride this year.

A keen cyclist, Mrs Asmaa Al-Assad was born to a London-based Syrian family. She regularly cycles with her husband, President Bashar Al-Assad, around the presidential palace in Damascus and at a holiday home in Lattakia. Asmaa Al-Assad trained at JP Morgan and went on work as a merchant banker for Deutsche Bank in New York. At the time of her engagement, she had been accepted to Harvard to study an MBA programme.

As the countdown to the start of the third ‘Follow the Women – Women for Peace’ cycle race continues, a press conference is planned in Damascus on Sunday, April 1st, with Dr. Mouna Ghanem, the head of the Syrian Family Commission: ‘Follow the Women’ falls under the auspices of this Commission.

Ends

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www.followthewomen.com



Date issued: 28/03/2007

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