Several hundred laws and restrictions in the name of customs are enforced upon the Iranian women from their birth to their death. They are subjected to several rules like how they should dress in public, should they be allowed to work, what they can study, etc. An infamous example of this was, when one female footballer from Iran was banned from traveling to the Asian Cup by her husband. He refused to sign papers for her to get her passport renewed. By law, it is necessary for women to take permission from their husband to leave the country.

Amid all this, a few women decided to break these barriers and one of them joined the world of bikes and motorcycles. And it doesn’t stop there; Behnaz Shafiei has been trying to overcome her obstacles and make a career out of her passion for automobile and Motocross.

    For us uninformed women, Motocross is a form of off-road motorcycle racing held on enclosed off-road circuit. It is also called as dirt-bike racing as there are hills of dirt to drive upon. Women in Iran are banned from riding motorcycles in public. Conservative clerics have time and again criticized the idea of women attending men's sporting events. If a woman is seen in public without her headscarf, it is punishable by fine or imprisonment for repeat offenders. So you can imagine how incredible this news about a female participating in Motocross events is, isn’t it?

    Shafiei and 5 other women have worked hard to get official identifications from Iran’s Motorcycle and Automobile Federation to allow them to race on amateur tracks but they still don’t have access to Iran’s only standard motocross track. So they often end up racing on the capital’s outskirts.

Shafiei fell in love with motorcycles 11 years ago when she saw a woman running errands on a small bike. Shafiei loved motorcycles since she was a child but only took it up as a passion when she was a teenager. Shafiei wants to inspire Iranian women so that all of them can eventually convince authorities to recognize women’s motorcycle racing as a sport.

    Although a few group of men suggested that Shafiei and her fellow female riders stay at home and cook, the men she trains with are supportive of her decision. Her coach, Rasoul Najafi, and she are often seen on the track together, with Rasoul leading the way and showing Behnaz how to master the art of bike.

    Najafi has mentioned that Behnaz, despite being invited to events in Europe and US, she cannot make it there because most of the times she lacks funds to make the trip. And she is not allowed to compete in races in Iran. The role of women in sports is currently a big issue in Iran. Conservatives have attempted to ban on women from entering the stadiums, but many moderates are fighting to get the rules changed.

Women have proven themselves many times that they are just as good as men in sports. Shafiei is fighting hard to go pro, but she says she also just wants to have fun. Until that happens she’s hoping that she gets to represent Iran in the sports that she loves very much.

    When in one part of the world women don’t like or don’t want to ride a motorcycle, in other part, women like Behnaz Shafiei are working hard to achieve their dream of riding. We salute you Behnaz Shafiei!