Young Iraqis have organized a mixed-gender cycling event in the middle of Baghdad, after a photo of a young woman on a bike went viral last week.
Marina Rada had posted the picture, taken by photographer Ayman al-Amiri, on her Facebook page last Sunday, accompanied with the caption: “I am society”. The image captured Iraqi imaginations and has become a symbol of the need for greater flexibility with regard to gender norms in the country.
Following on from the positive response to her photo, Marina yesterday shared, on the newly created Facebook page for her cause, an invitation to the people of Baghdad to join her for a collective bike ride from Abu Nuw’as street in central Baghdad. She also mentioned that security forces would be present to offer protection to the group.
It seems the event was a success as many Iraqis have shared images this morning of a large group of women, girls and some men cycling around the Iraqi capital, each sporting a matching cardboard cut-out of a bicycle.
Photos of wide participation in the initiative of #IAmSociety, launched by the our friend Marina on Monday at Abu Nuw'as Street in Baghdad.
The response on social media has once again been highly positive, with many using the hashtag "I am society":
Truly, it’s a great initiative
A great step, and well done you for this civilized action... and damn anyone who wants to kill the civil state [civil society]
Nonetheless, the young activist has been keen to emphasize that women’s cycling is only the very beginning of her ambitions.
In a video shared on her Facebook page on Thursday, Marina criticized those who saw her riding a bicycle as an accomplishment, saying that: “This is not my ambition, this is not what I want to achieve, the issue is greater than this.”
"My concern and my cause is for the rights of the woman, that she can exercise her natural rights.”
She certainly appears to be going about her campaign in the right way, as she will be speaking at a workshop hosted by the Iraqi Women's Rights Organization on Saturday.
The status of women in Iraq has faced severe setbacks during decades of conflict, and under the influence of conservative and extremist religious groups. Perhaps now, as the country comes closer to ridding itself of Daesh in the north, Iraqi women can take the opportunity to seize greater freedoms.
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