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October 12, 2021 2:31 pm

Israeli-Canadian, IsraAID Helped Evacuate 165 Refugees From Afghanistan in ‘Spy Novel’ Operation

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Members of the Afghan women’s cycling team in August, 2020. Photo: Reuters

Sylvan Adams, co-owner of the Israeli national cycling team, revealed new details Tuesday of a mission that helped Afghan women cyclists and others to escape Taliban rule in an operation likened to a “spy novel.”

“We are about the only group that’s able to move people around in Afghanistan and get them out,” Adams said during a conference Tuesday held by the Jerusalem Post. “Of course, the Afghan National Women’s team was terrified. They were in a situation in a country like Afghanistan, where you could be killed for riding your bicycle.”

The Israeli-Canadian Adams owns Israel Start-Up Nation, the Jewish nation’s first professional cycling team that competes in international tournaments, and said he was approached for the initiative on the basis of past humanitarian projects.

For the mission, the philanthropist teamed up with IsraAID, as the Israeli non-governmental humanitarian aid agency had operatives on the ground. Together they devised a plan to help the women cyclists and others flee from Afghanistan. Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the cycling’s world governing body, was also part of the evacuation operation.

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Adams recounted that the cycling team was taken to a land crossing of an unnamed neighboring country, where he knew somebody who was close to the president and could lend influence.

“It was crazy — like something you would read in a spy novel. To get them out at one point they had the guns of the Taliban at the border, trained at their heads. It was a very scary moment,” Adams said. “We got that call to the president of the neighboring country, and they were let in. They are now in the United Arab Emirates.”

Adams emphasized that he was particularly proud of the support and cooperation of the UAE, which he described as “a product of the Abraham Accords,” the normalization agreements which Israel struck last year with Arab states.

“The Emirates, when they heard that an Israeli group was taking out Muslim girls from Afghanistan they wanted to be our partner, specifically because we were Israeli,” said Adams, who financed the evacuation operation. “It’s a stunning partnership now and the girls are in the UAE and we extracted a second group as well that is in Albania.”

“We have saved 165 souls,” Adams added.

Among the evacuated group were also female judges, human rights workers, and Afghan diplomats, he said.

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