Group of Seven Women Cycling Across Iowa to Promote Rights for Muslim Women

“I never set out to be this role model” are the words of Rana Moharrak. She is one of the members of a women’s team called Shirzanan- “female heroes” in Persian who has set to cover whole Iowa to spread the message of fundamental rights of Muslim women on sports. In an interview with Huff Post live shares how this movement has taken new shape.

Shirzanan is a group of seven Muslim women, headed by Mara Gubuan, who are circling the lengths of Iowa in a seven-day bike ride in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI. Team Shirzanan is among the 8500 cyclists who are participating in the event that kick started on July 19 and finishes on July 25. It’s a 470 mile (over 750 Km) ride which starts roughly at 9.00 a.m. and goes on till 5.00 p.m. covering almost 60miles a day.

Gubuan founded the Muslim women’s non-profit Shirzanan Global. Gubuan hints at a very significant issue of marginalisation of Muslim women in the field of sports. An Iowa native, Gubuan is not Muslim but felt that sports participation is very necessary for the growth of a child as it lays a foundation and everyone should have access to this experience, especially women. Some women cycling in this event weren’t cyclists and learnt it recently to break the stigma related to it in their home countries, claimed Gubuan. Also, the team has a variety of Muslim women as it has an Afghan soccer player, a Pakistani swimmer and an Iranian snowboarder, a woman from Jordan and Egypt, as mentioned in the Shirzanan’s website.

Moharrak was also the first woman to climb Mount Everest and learnt to ride a bicycle only before the event to participate in it. She believes that her participation will inspire and empower other Muslim women to realise their right to sports. “If living by example can show young girls all over the world, in general, and Muslim women in specific that you are capable of doing what you set out to do — whether it’s climbing a mountain or riding a bicycle at my age — then we have done a great thing,” said Moharrak in the interview with Huff Post live.

As Moharrak said that her taking part will show the Muslim women that a few like them, who so actively take part in sports, then more will exist. Muslim women are repressed in all over the world, but they are most repressed in their own home countries where something as harmless as sports is considered immodest for them. In this patriarchal society, these women, being Muslim, are definitely breaking gender and cultural barriers and showing the world that there is more to women than being “modest.”

Picture Credit- Lockerdome