When Iranian women see Behnaz Shafiei dismount from her motorcycle and peel off her helmet, they stand mesmerized.

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

Armed with her vibrant yellow and red motorcycle, 26-year-old Behnaz Shafiei is a force to be reckoned with. By racing around and leaping over hurdles on her bike, the young Iranian rider is breaking barriers in a notoriously conservative country where women are actually banned from riding motorcycles in public.

Shafiei is one of six women making huge cultural and legal strides for female motorcycle racers in Iran  — and women at large. They worked hard to receive official idenitifications that allow them to race on amateur tracks. They can ride on off-road circuits, but are still barred from competing or obtaining licenses. Access to Iran’s sole standard motocross track in Tehran is prohibited, so in the meantime, they roar their bikes outside the capital.

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

Shafiei is just one of many inspiring women in the Middle East and South Asia who have caught the attention of Women in the World recently.


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