pioneering the vision of women on motorcycles
WANA (2010) – A motorcyclist is seen on an Iranian highway. Wearing a full racing suit and a helmet and sitting on her racing bike, it’s normal to expect some heads to turn, but this cyclist is attracting more attention than usual, and that’s because it’s a woman on the bike. Here, women are prohibited from obtaining a motorcycle license by Islamic law, but this hasn’t stopped women like Baran from fighting for the right to hold the license; whether it be to compete in races or to get around the city on their preferred mode of transport.
Baran Hadizadeh is a 31-year-old motorcyclist. She does everything from off-road biking to professional racing. She’s been training for 9 years and riding motorcycles for 11. For Baran, there’s a thrill in seeking what most girls are afraid of, and she says this excitement to overcome common fears is what drove her to start biking. Very few women are active in this field and only a few more ride motorcycles at all. She tells us it started with her watching men racing dirt bikes on hills. She envied them, hoping one day she too could climb the same hills on a bike. She remained an observer for another year or two before finally deciding to take a shot at motorbiking.
Despite the illegality of riding motorcycles for women, Baran says she hasn’t ever received any negative comments or feedback. “They’ve been receptive and maybe taken a video or a picture,” she says as she comments on her profession.
Driving around Tehran on the highway it was clear that a female figure in professional attire usually attributed to men was very interesting for those driving by. Baran is looking to obtain her training permit so that she can officially begin training motorbiking enthusiast, and is hopeful to acquire her motorbike license with all the strides she’s made so far. Baran believes there’s nothing contradictory to Islamic modesty law in how she dresses to do what she does. “It’s just like sitting in a car where you can have your hijab on,” she says. “On a bike, you have a helmet so it’s even better because the wind can’t blow your scarf off your head.” When she leaves on her bike, Baran covers her whole body. Her pants are long and baggy and so are her sleeves. She wears a hair covering garment that she tucks inside and under her shirt. “I don’t think there’s anything that interferes with Islamic law and the laws of this country.”
Our day with Baran ends with her washing her bike in a shop full of men. In a country where the number of female bikers may not even reach the hundreds, the likes of Baran are trying to break through and achieve their dreams of having the legal right to ride around on a bike.
So far the only places women can ride a motorbike are on closed tracks with permits.
Baran is hopeful that with enough resolve and conviction she can secure the right for women to ride bikes on public roads. As her motorcycle sits behind her soaked in soap, she tells us she the public doesn’t think there are any female motorcyclists, and that in actuality there are a very small number of them who roam the streets of the country, pioneering the phenomenon of women on motorcycles in Iran.