Day By Day

Monday, July 11, 2005

Laleh Saddigh -- Iran's "Super-fast chick" has the hottest wheels in town

From some recent commentary in the West one might assume that throughout the width and breadth of the Muslim world women live terribly constricted lives -- shut away, confined within burkahs, and denied access to most activities. But look at this babe from the "Islamic Republic" who competes successfully in a quintessentially male world. You might call her an Iranian Janet Guthrie.

She drives the hottest set of wheels in the Islamic Republic. When Laleh Saddigh trains on the circuit in western Teheran, the asphalt is melted by more than the midday sun. With squealing tyres and expert handling the professional rally driver skilfully negotiates the bends, revs up and belts straight down the track. Not for nothing is her orange and white Proton saloon -- the vehicle that crashed through Iran's gender barriers -- emblazoned with the word "champion". Proud of her nickname the "Iranian Schumacher", Laleh has been driving on the rally circuit for five years, on the Caspian Sea, in the Iranian mountains and desert, and a year ago was granted permission to compete against men. It came with great success: Saddigh has won first prize in several competitions. Very often the only thing her male competitors see of her car is the rear bumper disappearing through a cloud of dust.

The 28-year old skids to a halt, undoes her safety belt and leaps athletically from the car, slowly peeling off her driving gloves. Not until she removes her helmet, revealing the obligatory Islamic headscarf underneath, is it clear that this racetrack is in the land of the Islamic revolution. From head to toe the rally driver oozes confidence, from her close-fitting orange-and-white driving suit to the tip of her black hair peeping out from under her headscarf. "Most of the people here find it strange to see a woman taking part in car rallies, but I want to show them that everybody has potential and that we can all reach our goals," she explains. "Iranian women are proud of me and keep pushing me on to do better things. I hope I can set an example for them that with enough willpower women can achieve anything." Laleh's self-confidence seems boundless.

Just a small reminder that Iran is a far more modern and complex society than the theocratic image we see in the MSM -- there is much more to Iran than the Mullahs.

Read the story here.

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