70 Afghan refugees arrive safely in Italy after Sylvan Adams, IsraAID rescue operation

Among those rescued are the Afghan women’s national cycling team, a female robotics team, families of diplomats, female judges, police officers, human rights workers and more.

 Displaced Afghan women stand waiting to receive cash aid for displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2022. (photo credit:  REUTERS/ALI KHARA)
Displaced Afghan women stand waiting to receive cash aid for displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

Following an incredibly difficult journey, 70 Afghan refugees, many of whom are female athletes and cyclists, arrived in Rome on Wednesday. The refugees who fled the Taliban were greeted by Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams upon their arrival. 

Adams has been an integral part of rescue operations from Afghanistan, which have been ongoing for almost a year along with an international group of diplomats, Union Cycliste Internationale president David Lapparient and IsraAID, an Israeli NGO. In addition to the 70 refugees who arrived in Italy, the group has rescued 167 other Afghans who have resettled in France, Switzerland and Canada, the release stated.

IsraAID’s rescue efforts have involved clandestine operations in Afghanistan. Refugees were collected from alleyways then transported to a jet chartered by Adams.

Among those rescued are the Afghan women’s national cycling team, a female robotics team, families of diplomats, female judges, police officers, human rights workers, members of parliament and the last Jewish family in Afghanistan, according to a press release. One member of the most recent group was imprisoned in Kabul for months after being accused of helping women study and practice sports.

A long process was involved

 Afghan passport. (credit: ETHAN SCHWARTZ (ISRAAID)) Afghan passport. (credit: ETHAN SCHWARTZ (ISRAAID))

Before arriving in Rome, the 70 refugees spent nine months in Islamabad, waiting for the resolution of their bureaucratic issues as well as their Italian visas. Italy issued 300 visas in total, and the majority of the recipients are set to arrive in Rome shortly.

The 70 who have arrived will be joining the homes of Italians in Abruzzo with the assistance of the Humanitarian Corridors foundation and Francesca Monzone, an Italian journalist.

Who is Sylvan Adams?

Adams is an avid cyclist who owns the Israel – Premier Tech professional team and has adopted a women’s cycling team in Rwanda. His professional team continues to improve, having recorded 17 wins in 2021 and two stage victories at the 2022 Tour de France, the release noted.

“As a Jew, I am guided by the ancient Jewish cultural imperative called ‘Tikkun Olam’, a Hebrew term translated roughly as ‘improving our world,’” Adams explained. “This is what guided us in Rwanda where we adopted the women’s cycling team and now plan to build a bike center, and we hope to see the Afghan athletes get a chance to thrive like their counterparts in Rwanda.”

The philanthropist said he has high hopes for the Afghan cyclists he helped to rescue. “It's about giving them the chance to realize their dreams,” he stated in the release. 

“It's about giving them the chance to realize their dreams.”

Sylvan Adams

“In fact, we are planning to partner with two professional women’s cycling teams next year – a WorldTour team and a U23 Continental team. I would love to see some of these Afghan women cyclists, together with their Rwandan counterparts, as well as perhaps Ukrainian, Israeli, and even Canadian riders reaching their dreams together to become professional cyclists. The door is open.”