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The all-female bicycle rally took place in Mosul, Iraq, on April 12. About 35 riders aged 15 to 30 years rode through the streets of the Old City of Mosul to encourage more girls and women to take up cycling and point out the need to restore the ruined streets and infrastructure.

The Great Mosque of al-Nuri, the starting point of the event, bears symbolic importance as it was this very site that the leader of the Islamic State chose for his speech to declare Mosul a self-declared caliphate. Even though the Islamic State occupation ended in 2017, the city is still heavily destroyed.

The Iraqi rally
The rally started at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. © Profimedia

Some of the girls who participated in the rally had to train to ride their bikes beforehand as a female cyclist is still a rare sight in Iraq. There’s an old (and wrong) belief that riding a bicycle can cause a woman to lose her virginity and that it is undesirable for girls to cycle. Thus, the overall goal of the ride was to help remove the taboo from women’s cycling in the conservative Iraqi society.

At the end of the ride, the riders were awarded medals for participation.