Women break bar­ri­ers in Iran mo­tocross

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Ira­nian mo­tocross rider Behnaz Shafiei’s pas­sion for hur­dling over dirt hills has led her to leap cul­tural and legal bar­ri­ers in Iran, where women are banned from rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles in public.

“When two days pass and I do not ride my mo­tor­cy­cle, I get re­ally ill. Even the thought of not hav­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle some­day gives me an aw­ful feel­ing,” Shafiei said on the out­skirts of Iran’s cap­i­tal, Tehran. “Some­times, I think to my­self, ‘How did peo­ple in the past live with­out a mo­tor­bike?’ Is life with­out a mo­tor­cy­cle pos­si­ble?”

It al­most be­came a re­al­ity for 26-year-old. In Iran it re­mains il­le­gal for women to ride mo­tor­cy­cles in public. Con­ser­va­tive cler­ics also de­nounce the idea of women at­tend­ing men’s sport­ing events.

But Shafiei and five other women worked hard to get of­fi­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tions from Iran’s Mo­tor­cy­cle and Au­to­mo­bile Fed­er­a­tion to al­low them to race on am­a­teur tracks. They still don’t have ac­cess to Iran’s only stan­dard mo­tocross track at the Azadi Sports Com­plex in Tehran, so they of­ten race on the cap­i­tal’s out­skirts.

On a re­cent week­end, Shafiei drew a crowd when she took off her hel­met, part of gear re­ceived from in­ter­na­tional spon­sors. Women crowded around to take snapshots with her.

“I did not know that it was a woman rid­ing un­til I no­ticed her hair,” house­wife Mah­naz Rahimi said. “It took me by sur­prise that a woman can be so coura­geous. I don’t have the guts to do such a thing.”

Shafiei fell in love with mo­tor­cy­cles 11 years ago when she saw a woman in the coun­try run­ning er­rands on a small bike.

“My goal is to be a pi­o­neer to in­spire other women,” she said. “To­gether, we can con­vince au­thor­i­ties to rec­og­nize women’s mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing.”

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