“A women with a vision empowers an empire of the women to do more, to see and be more”. The article from BBC was about a woman who fights against the ban for women riding motorcycles in her country.
Behnaz Shafiei, a woman from Iran who is very passionate about the motocross racing, but in Iran, it is against the law for a woman riding a bike in the streets and racing is now way scenario. Proof to that, recently, two women were arrested in the city of Dezful after being filmed riding a motorbike. Police accused them of committing an “obscene act”. Eradicating all these obstacles, 27 years old Behnaz Shafiei got a concession from Iran’s sports ministry to stage the country’s first ever all-female motorbike race.
Her journey was so empowering as it all started when she was 15, she was shocked to see a woman on a motorcycle for the first time in Zanjan in northwestern Iran. She got a permission from her parents for a spin which made her more passionate about riding motorcycles. From then, she was practicing on her brother’s bike in Atashgah mountains, Alborz Province. One day she rode on streets where no one could identify her as a woman as she was wearing helmet & jackets covered from head to toe.
“You know how, when you tell a child not to touch something that’s hot, she just wants to touch it more to check? Same for me,” she said. “Riding my motorbike seemed to me like a pretty normal thing for a woman to do. When I saw how people reacted with shock… it just spurred me on.”
When she approaches Iran’s sports ministry to participate in motorcycle races, come to know women were banned from riding motorcycles and to race as well. “So I asked myself why, why shouldn’t women be allowed to race? And there was no good answer.” Most of the opposition came from men, she said. “They kept telling me to go back to doing the washing and cooking. They said that women did not have what it takes to do this. That just made me more difficult, more determined to prove them wrong.”
After many tries, she got a green light to practice on off-road tracks and later to compete in men’s races, also the Sports ministry reminded her to wear a hijab, then they realized motorbike riding has a better hijab already than most sports.
Behnaz Shafiei started a campaign and it continued for three years to create awareness and bring the woman who is passionate about riding and racing motorcycles. After getting a good response and head counts around the country, again she approaches the Iran’s sports ministry for getting an approval to conduct a race among the woman. And finally, she got an approval with a lot of restrictions like no men will be allowed to watch that race & etc.
“This event is being handled only by women, from the organizers to the spectators to the racers,” said Behnaz. “And God willing, tomorrow it will take place.”
“There are a lot of people trying to throw a spanner in the works, but the women are so determined. They picked up shovels and cleared the tracks. They mopped up the leftover water. They placed the tyres around the track – one by one and by hand – in the freezing cold. Every single one of them was determined that this race would take place. I’m persistent and I pursue the things I love, so I pursued it,” she said. “And finally I succeeded. That success will be on show later when 15 back tyres kick up dust. It’s the first step. The fact that this race will be held shows that women’s rights have been respected and we have achieved our demands. Not at a very high level yet, but at least we’re doing something, and this is just the beginning.”, she said.
In her bucket list, a trip to the USA was in the next as she was invited by a fellow female professional from USA. So she applied for a visa and the next day the USA president Donald Trump announced that there will be a temporary ban for seven mostly-Muslim countries including Iran which stopped her to go for a ride around the USA.
“That has left me in limbo,” Behnaz said. “But I hope after this thing has passed I can reach my goal.”
“From what I have seen of the girls’ enthusiasm and training I don’t think so. I may even come in last!”
“You know, in Iran, women’s driving skills are always ridiculed. But these same men who claim to be excellent drivers would be too scared to even watch the things I can do on my motorbike.”