Great Ride of Return set to take place in London and Glasgow

  • Post last modified:March 13, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

On Saturday 16 March, London and Glasgow will join a number of cities worldwide to raise flags and voices on two wheels for Palestine, joining the latest synchronised solidarity cycle in the Great Ride of Return series.

The past three cycles took place earlier this year in more than 60 locations across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia with thousands of cyclists demanding an end to Israel’s assault on Palestine. The series is led by the Gaza Sunbirds in partnership with their own sporting campaign Athletes for Palestine in coalition with Big Ride for Palestine, Native Women Ride and Amos Trust:

The Gaza Sunbirds: leading the charge

The Gaza Sunbirds are a para-cycling team based in Gaza and made up of 20 athletes who lost limbs in previous Israeli attacks. They formed in 2020 with a dream of representing Palestine on the sporting world stage at this year’s Paralympics. Now, the team have been forced to give up their training regime due to the current Israeli aggression.

Instead, the past four months have seen them distributing over $70,000 USD worth of food and supplies in Southern and central Gaza – risking their lives on one leg for their community’s right to survive.

As the bombardment persists and these aid missions become increasingly challenging to complete, the Sunbirds call on the world to join them on bikes and demand an end to Israel’s intensifying atrocities.

This urgent call echoes across the world, sparking a powerful grassroots cycling movement dubbed the Great Ride of Return. Local groups and individuals are rallying their communities to raise flags and voices on two wheels, synchronized with fellow cyclists internationally who demand a permanent ceasefire and dignified existence for Palestinians.

An international group of partners for the Great Ride of Return

The series has a number of partners including the Sunbirds’ own Athletes for Palestine campaign which aims to rally the entire sporting community and has seen 100+ athletes, sports teams and groups sign up. Organising some of the UK cycles is Big Ride for Palestine who have been organising solidarity cycles since 2015:

Big Ride for Palestine Great Ride of Return

The North American side of the series is partnered with Washington-DC-based indigenous cycling collective, Native Women Ride who supports the smooth running of cycles across the continent.

Amos Trust is the Sunbirds’ British fundraising partner and regularly represents at the Great Rides.

Thanks to this coalition, ride organisers, participants and the Sunbirds themselves, thousands have taken to the streets for powerful global moments during the Great Ride of Return. They’ve been felt in Berlin, Tokyo, Washington DC, El Salvador, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manchester, Singapore, Cape Town, Los Angeles, and many more cities in between.

Inspired by the Great March of Return

The Great Ride of Return series takes inspiration from the founding story of the Gaza Sunbirds set against the backdrop of the Great March of Return – a peaceful Palestinian rally along the Gaza-Israel border.

Held weekly for over a year from 2018, thousands protested against Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and demanded the right to return to their ancestral homes. On 30 March 2019, Palestine’s top professional cyclist, Alaa al-Dali, joined the march; what he experienced that day led to events he would later describe as the “amputation of his dream”.

He was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper with an explosive bullet and became one of 32,000 peaceful protesters injured by targeted attacks. After medical leave was refused for treatment that would save his leg – a shared reality for most cases like these – Alaa had it surgically removed.

The following year, he rewrote his personal dream of competing individually in overseas cycling races into a collective project using sport to empower others after trauma. He assembled 19 team mates, all of whom had sustained similar life-altering injuries from Israeli attacks, many from that very rally, and founded the Gaza Sunbirds. Alaa compels us to recognise injustices past and present and:

Join us on our journey to send a powerful message to the world to stop the siege of Gaza. We ride for freedom.

After 16 March, the next Great Ride of Return will take place on 30 March. It is the five year anniversary of the gunshot to Alaa’s leg that led to its amputation and marks the beginning of the inspirational Gaza Sunbirds journey.

Join or organise a solidarity cycle in your city. More information here.

Featured image via the Big Ride for Palestine and additional images via the Gaza Sunbirds/Big Ride for Palestine

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