Being Free to Run

Some of you may have seen recent my Facebook posts and shared posts lately about finding contacts within China. This is an urgent plea – please take the time to read this and understand what it will mean if you can share or help. As I explain below, a connection with Huawei in particular is urgently needed.

Two girls from Afghanistan, Nelofar (19) and Zainab (25), are planning to join a 250 km race in the Gobi Desert (, with ultrarunner and human rights lawyer Stephanie Case who is based in Gaza, making up the final member of the team.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman where even walking outside alone puts them at risk. Despite the incredible challenges, these two young women have found a way to train six days a week for the last six months to prepare.

With the girls due to leave next week, Zainab and Nelofar have run into unexpected visa issues. In order to get their visas, they need a sponsorship letter from a company in China, which will enable the China Foreign Affairs to issue a letter of invitation. The company must be a China-registered Government company or very strongly government-affiliated and must have large amounts of business with neighbouring countries, ideally the country from which those seeking the sponsorship letter are coming from (Afghanistan).

The value of getting these two Afghan girls to the Gobi is immeasurable. Quite simply, it is an opportunity of a lifetime that has the potential to not only change their lives for the better, but also the lives of women and men around them. The race provides them with a chance to prove to themselves, their communities, their country and all of us what Afghan women are capable of, and an opportunity to defy limits that have been imposed on them by society. 

They feel a responsibility to their families, to Afghan women and to their country to get to the finish line. They have trained in the face of harassment, Taliban attacks and insecurity. They are potential leaders in their community and this race would give them the opportunity to develop their confidence. Nelofar, who is 19 years old, is hoping to use this experience to start her own running club for other Afghan women in her home town. Zainab wants to keep running for the rest of her life, using it as a vehicle for peace.

Nelofar has never taken an international flight before – this is a huge step. Zainab now feels like she has hope for her future. 

This race is much, much more than a race to them and to other Afghan women. 

Nothing like this has ever been attempted before – it would be groundbreaking.

At present, we are calling for any connections to HUAWEI or possible mining and petroleum companies such as Metallurgical Corporation of China, Jiangxi Copper Corporation and China National Petroleum Corporation, as they have current projects invested in Afghanistan.

If you can help, please contact Samantha Fanshawe (, leave a comment or send a message. Time is running out and I believe we can make this happen if we try hard enough!