FTW Aleppo start for Women for Peace cycle ride in the Levant

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

For immediate release
Saturday, April 7th, 2007


249 riders from 30 countries set out from Syrian start;
Lena Arafat, daughter of the late Yasser Arafat, rides for peace;
13-strong Iranian team joins strong American and British contingent

ALEPPO (Syria): The 2007 ‘Follow the Women – Women for Peace’ cycle ride started from Aleppo University in northern Syria on Saturday, with 249 female riders from 30 countries crossing the start line and heading straight into the first 30km road section from Aleppo to the site of the historic Saint Simeon Citadel.

Over the next 11 days, the riders will pass through Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, before finishing in Amman on Thursday, April 19th. Over 120 female riders from Syria elected to enter this year’s Middle East peace ride to raise awareness of the unstability and unrest in the region, with France represented by the largest international team of 20 riders.

The Palestinian team were represented by members of the Palestinian Cycling Club and included 24-year-old Lena Arafat, the daughter of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. An administrator in the Presidential bureau, Lena has taken part in all three peace rides in the Middle East. “When I first learned about this event and what it stood for, it was obvious that I would take part to raise awareness of the situation in Palestine,” said a determined Lena.

One of the her colleagues is 20-year-old student Nida Awine, who is taking part in the ride for the first time and is an integral member of the cycling community in Palestine, which has clubs in Ramalla, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jericho. “I want to raise awareness of the problems of the people in the West Bank without using the mass media which, I feel, does not give a true image of the real situation.”

The figure-head of a 16-strong British team is ‘Follow the Women’ founder and former Nobel Peace Prize nominee Detta Reagan. The Reading-based activist has taken part in all three peace rides in the Middle East and was staggered by the support for this year’s event, which is sponsored by the Syrian telecommunications company Areeba.

“I gave a small address on the evening before the start and was overwhelmed by the number of sheer people taking part,” said Regan. “I could not believe there were so many women here to push for the cause of world and Middle East peace.”

One of her British team colleagues is Bristol-based bank employee Sybil Pereira. “Men seem to sort out their problems with guns and leave women and children to suffer the consequences,” said Pereira, making her first trip to the Middle East region. “So it was obvious that I would support such a worthy cause.”

One of the front-running Syrian riders is 23-year-old Rasha Kozma, who works in the telecommunications industry. “It is fantastic to see so many international women in my country and I am very proud that we have hosted this worthwhile event. It is great to see the friendship and warmth shown between the Iranian and British riders. It proves that sport is more important than current politics.”

Among a large contingent from Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, Holland, Spain and Jordan, the sole Australian entrant is 18-year-old student Michaela Ash. The Sydney-based youngster took part in the London to Rome section of last year’s London to Jerusalem ride and is visiting the Middle East for the first time. “It’s a great cause and one that I hope will go from strength to strength,” said Ash.

Tomorrow (Sunday) the route heads from the Aleppo region to the Syrian coastal area around Lattakia. Riders will tackle a potentially gruelling 40km section between Ugarit – the home of the world’s first ever alphabet – and Um Altur. The section contains several hillclimbs and twisty roads, enough to worry many of the less experienced riders in a truly international field.


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Date issued: 07/04/2007

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