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Nyan Cycling

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Nyan Yassin, 24, is a professional competitive cyclist in Sulaymaniyah in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. She is the captain of an all-female club called Newroz Club, the only cycling club for women in Sulaymaniyah, although there are other clubs around Iraq. She trains and competes on roads that are badly surfaced and busy with traffic.

Nyan was the first woman to start cycling in Sulaymaniyah. She has always been competitive and after trying her hand at various sports, she settled on cycling. She is now the top female cyclist in Iraq. Her nickname is “MigMig” after the noise made by the cartoon character Roadrunner.

Despite her obvious talent, Nyan knows that in a couple of years she will have to get married and then abandon cycling as, in a traditional society, being a wife and a competitive sportswoman at the same time is not an option.

Professional cyclist Nyan Yassin poses for a portrait at home in Sulaimaniyah.

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Nyan Yassin sleeps outside her house while she waits for a car to take her to training.

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The cyclist prepares for a race by plaiting her hair.

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Nyan warms up before a race with other members of Newroz cycling club.

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Nyan takes part in individual time trials during a competition in Sulaimaniyah.

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Members of Newroz cycling club line up on the start line before competing in team time trials. Nyan Yassin is second from left.

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Cyclists climb a hill in temperatures of over 35º during the team individual race.

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Nyan crosses the finish line in the individual team event. Members of the club can break away in this event but Newroz cycling club raced as a team.

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Nyan warms down after finishing racing on the last day of racing.

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A scar from a fall Nyan had while training in India in February 2013.

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Nyan Yassin carries a flag during a graduation ceremony at Sulaimaniyah University. She completed a degree course in Physical Education.

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Nyan helps her mother Mhabad prepare food in the family home. Women, especially married women, spend a large portion of the day preparing food in Iraq. When Nyan gets married, she will probably have to give up competitive sport for a job teaching.

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