Human rights journalist Rebecca Lowe cycled alone from London to Tehrain to tell the stories through the lens of the people rather than politics
Amazons is presented by Chris Stafford. Click on the player below to listen to the podcast.
English journalist Rebecca Lowe set off on a cross country bike ride with a difference in July 2015. Having specialized in writing about human rights, justice and the law in the Middle East she determined it was time to travel those dusty roads to breathe the air and feel the political and cultural pulse of the region for herself. For nine months she would traverse 20 countries across 3 continents clocking up 6,835 miles or 11,000 kilometers. Part of her motivation was “to tell stories through the lens of people rather than politics. To shun the abstract for the specific, the exceptional for the commonplace. To bring humans back into the debate.” She believed that the media is too often a distorting lens, picking the worst and making it the whole and this was her chance to witness and share first hand how everyday people shared the common necessities of life, regardless of their cultural differences, and prove that the world is a kindlier place than it seems. From being rescued after a flat tire and offered tripe soup and a pint of Johnnie Walker to being smuggled into a Syrian refugee camp in Bulgaria, Rebecca captured every memory and image, which she plans to convey in a book. In the meanwhile the trip has inspired her to consider more intrepid adventures and become an activist for women’s rights.
Podcast length: 35’10”
I think it’s a big challenge to make it more acceptable for women to be doing sports in a public venue
“There were certain challenges in these places for women in being involved in sports. There are big differences between the capital cities of some of these countries and the smaller villages and communities because in places like Cairo and Tehran, these are much more metropolitan and cosmopolitan places and you do get women more involved in sports, and cycling in particular. In Cairo I went out with a big cycling team there, a cycling community, and were surprised that a third of them were women, and there didn’t seem much issue with the women going along, and this was just one of many of these cycling groups that operate in Cairo. And in Tehran I met a number of female cyclists, although they did tend to cycle in the mountains and also very early on Friday mornings which is when far few people would be on the road and would be unlikely to see them or the police were less likely to stop them because that could be a problem in Iran in particular.
So it depended where you were; if you went outside the big cities it was very, very different. I mean the idea of women participating the majority of sports in Egypt outside Cairo, I think that becomes much more problematic and women have to cover themselves. Certainly in Iran they have to cover their head, they have to cover most of their skin and so that creates problems just a very pragmatic level of being able to go outside and practice sports. I mean you have to do it these confined, private, secured areas where people can’t see you, or men can’t see you or interact with you and that causes problems.
And not just in those countries, also in the Gulf as well; in Oman and the UAE, they tend to have segregated gyms which is fine, I think what a lot of the women might have wanted, but you didn’t see many women on the streets running, jogging, playing sports, like it just wasn’t really acceptable. I think it’s a big challenge to make it more acceptable for women to be doing sports in a public venue. I think there’s more acceptance of them doing it privately and behind closed doors but to me what’s the difference doing it in a public space and a private space.” Rebecca Lowe
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