“I Am Society”: Iraq’s Cycling Girls Ride For Freedom


What started as an art project became a social media meme and then a civil society movement. A group of women now gathers regularly to cycle in Baghdad and break new ground. Or is it old ground? “My mother and my grandmother used to ride bicycles. It used to be normal,” Marina Jaber told AFP. She said she questioned why she had felt so proud when she rode a bike during a visit to London last year. To find the answer, Jaber started cycling in her neighborhood and made that a project for a contemporary arts institute called Tarkib — an Arabic word which can mean installation and assemblage. A picture Jaber posted of herself cycling alongside an old man riding his own bicycle and staring at her in reproving disbelief made the rounds on Iraqi social media last year. “With that old man, I found my answer.” Jaber said. “He stopped looking and went about his business. All the people in the area got used to it, they stopped looking at me… I understood then that I am society. If I want something, I should start doing it.”