Banned from Iran’s streets, woman races bikes, breaks barriers on the track

By Jaime Leon

Tehran, Jun 15 (EFE).- Maryam Talai breaks barriers in her country riding a motorcycle at 160 kmph on racing circuits, despite being banned from riding two-wheeled vehicles on the streets per Iranian law.

Talai, 42, grew up in a house with four brothers obsessed with cars, racing and adventures, and has not let the restrictions on women in Iran get in the way of her dreams.

“I love motorcycles. They are part of my life,” the woman from Shiraz told EFE, dressed in a racing suit. “It gives me power to be on the back of the bike and it’s a kind of meditation for me.”

She reaches 160 kmph on the track and 190 kmph on the highway straights on her 250 cc motorcycle.

But the path to fulfill her dreams has not been easy in a country where laws and customs limit what women can do since the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

Talai started riding and racing in Canada in 2009, a country she moved to years ago.

But back in her home country, the Motorcycle Federation did not allow Talai or other women to use the circuits.

“We tried again and again and in 2016 they allowed us to use a circuit one day a week, two hours, to train,” she said.

“For three years they have allowed us to compete as well,” she said.

Right now about 30 women compete in motorcycle racing in the country.

The pilot said she finds these difficulties “strange” because the law prohibits women from riding motorcycles on public roads.

“If a woman is a passenger with a man riding the motorcycle, that’s fine. But if she shifts 10 inches forward (to the driver’s position) then it’s a terrible thing,” she said.

“It’s just weird. Women can drive big cars and even fly planes. But we can’t do this specifically,” she said.

If the police stop a woman riding a motorcycle on the street, they can fine the driver and even impound the vehicle.

Despite her advances in recent years and being allowed to compete on circuits, she still faces taboos for being a racer.

“They look at us like we’re weird. Many do not accept us,” she said.

In fact, during women’s competitions, men are not allowed on the circuits nor are these races televised.

“Not even my grandfather can come,” Talai said, adding that this is the case despite them wearing racing driver suits that “hide” their bodies. “You can’t see that we are women.”

In addition to being a pilot, Talai is a photographer, has made documentaries, redecorates cars and has a shelter for hundreds of dogs in a country where they are frowned upon and considered impure.

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