This weekend, cyclists in Stroud will join thousands across the world in 43 cities for the latest solidarity cycle in the The Great Ride of Return series. This follows the success of the first two organised cycles which saw more than 60 cities ride for Palestine earlier this year from including in the UK, El Salvador, Mexico and Australia.
The series is led by the Gaza Sunbirds – a para cycling team facing the current Israeli attacks on the Gaza strip. The Great Ride takes inspiration from its UK partner Big Ride for Palestine (BR4P) and is also partnered with Native Women Ride (NWR) in the US and AMOS Trust. Additionally, BR4P, NWR and a number of those involved in Great Ride are sign-ups for Gaza Sunbirds campaign Athletes for Palestine which aims to unite the world through sport.
James Beecher, one of the organisers from Cargo Bikes of Stroud said: “The situation in Gaza is bleak, but riding with the Gaza Sunbirds and people around the world taking part in solidarity rides is one way our local community has come together to support a ceasefire and connect with Palestinians on a human level.”
The Gaza Sunbirds was founded after champion cyclist Alaa al-Dali was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper during the 2018 Great March of Return, a peaceful protest rally where thousands of Palestinians demanded an end to the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza. Alaa was one of 32,000 people shot by Israeli forces that day, and one of 155 that needed amputations. After his injuries led to the amputation of his leg, Alaa rewrote his personal dream of competing in cycling races overseas into a collective project of empowering others through sport. He started the Gaza Sunbirds, a para-cycling team which now includes 20 Palestinian para-athletes who suffered similar life-altering injuries.
Prior to the ongoing Israeli offensive against Gaza, the Sunbirds were training in the hope of landing a wildcard place at the Paris 2024 Paralympics.
Since Israel’s attacks, the Sunbirds have had to turn their attention to surviving the bombing and intensified siege of Gaza. While helping to distribute food and other mutual aid locally, the team has rallied a global community of cycling followers now in the tens of thousands to ride for freedom in organised cycles.
The January 6th and 20th rides saw more than 60 group rides led globally from El Salvador to Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manchester, Singapore, Cape Town, Los Angeles and many more cities besides. This powerful international moment led by the Sunbirds is partnered with US-based indigenous cycling collective, Native Women Ride and Big Ride for Palestine, who have been organising Palestinian solidarity rides nationwide since 2015.
Now, organisers are anticipating an even larger turnout, with more riders in more cities joining on upcoming cycles in the series, most taking part on Sat 10th with a number on Fri 9th, Sun 11th and Weds 14th Feb.
Join or organise a Great Ride of Return solidarity cycle – for more info visit: www.gazasunbirds.org/ride