Forever Under Construction

Laleh

Posted in Iran, Racing by homeyra on November 25, 2006

Most probably you have heard of her but how can I resist to post at least one article about Laleh?

Laleh Seddigh, born in 1977, is one of the only Iranian women race car drivers, skilled in both circuit and rally driving.

THE opportunity to compete against the boys came when a new president took over at the Iranian racing federation. In fall 2004, she petitioned the national auto racing federation for permission to compete. When it was granted, she became not only the first woman in Iran to race cars against the opposite sex, but also the first woman since the Islamic Revolution here to compete against men in any sport.

What’s more, she beat them.

Laleh laughs when asked what it feels like to stand on the winner’s podium looking down on her male competitors…Unable to suppress a laugh she says, “I just tell them they need to practice a bit more to improve”…”I like competition in everything, I have to move whatever is movable in the world.”

laleh-seddigh-laleh_iran.jpg

In March 2005, she moved the nation when she won the national championship. State television refused to show the new champ on the victory dais, but photographers captured the moment. Ms. Seddigh is a lively, energetic symbol of a whole generation of young Iranians who are increasingly testing social boundaries. 70% of Iranians are under 35, and they have gently pushed for freedoms unimaginable even a few years ago.

She admires the Formula One star Michael Schumacher – the petite Ms. Seddigh is often called “the little Schumacher” – but her real hero is her father, a wealthy factory owner. “I’ve always wanted to be like him …Basically, he’s my trainer in everything” Her mother has learned to stay out of it. “She was just crying, praying, nothing more.” Saeed Arabian, Iran’s previous national champion and now her driving coach, is proud of what she has achieved: “She is brave in asking for her rights. She will have a great future.”

When she was 13, her father taught her to drive on weekends. At 23, she began racing miniature race cars that had more in common with go-carts. She also entered three-day cross-country car rallies, in which she had to change her own tires and make her own repairs.

She has devoted her academic career to preparing to succeed her father in the family business. She received a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and a master’s in production engineering, and is now working on her Ph.D. in industrial management and production, all at Tehran University.

But driving is her first love. It appears to be a widely shared passion, as the exuberantly chaotic traffic of Tehran makes competitive driving seem like a national sport. “Tehran is a great place to learn how to drive,” she said. It is also a good place to have an accident…she broke her neck in one accident on the racetrack, and her left leg has metal screws in it from another wreck.

It is only in recent years that women have even been allowed to watch men’s sports. At her first race, women were screaming and climbing up the fences and that worried the organizers. “The committee said, ‘Please, don’t make the audience excited’ “. For the championship, she had to agree not to wave to the crowd, a third of whom by this point were women.

laleh-seddigh-20050514183449.jpg

Ms. Seddigh was sponsored by Proton, a locally assembled Malaysian car, but she hopes to get a more prestigious international sponsor for the coming season. Subaru offered her a sponsorship but required her to move overseas, which she does not yet want to do. But she realizes that she may have to, at some point.

But this year Laleh was barred from defending title. In the lead-up to the race, she was told her participation was not guaranteed but was advised to register her name. Her registration was passed after technicians gave her car the all-clear. “I thought I had been given the go-ahead, I was walking towards the grid thinking thank God this has been resolved, when they shut the door on me. They said they didn’t know why, but the head of the federation said I wasn’t allowed to participate.”

It was the first time Seddigh had been excluded from a contest. She believes she was banned to prevent her earning enough points to repeat her championship success, which won her international fame but upset Iran’s male-dominated religious ruling establishment.

Seddigh says a Muslim cleric has already issued a fatwa – a legally binding religious ruling – stating that there is no religious bar to women racing against men provided Islamic dress code is observed. She plans to use the fatwa if she fails to persuade federation officials to grant her permission to take part in future races. The federation’s vice-president said Seddigh had been barred because of a government circular restricting women to female-only events. That decree has now been lifted, he said. But he added: “Women are speaking highly of themselves and that causes men who sacrifice their lives in this sport disappointment. Women are not champions in this sport, they are only participants…”

Sources: Wikipedia, NYT, The Guardian, BBC, Iran Daily

Advertisements

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. homeyra said, on November 25, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    To PPGG: please notice how elegant she is 🙂

  2. naj said, on November 25, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    It is disappointing how little walls are beginning to appear around the women. One must thank Mr. Bush and his branding Iran the Axis of Evil!!
    The new discussion about segregation of public space is even more disturbing. I hope there is serious debate and resistance …

  3. peoplesgeography said, on November 25, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Quite 🙂

  4. afriendtohumanity said, on December 2, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    What a story. It’s always cool to see a woman come and put the guys in their place (note I am a guy). You have to wonder, in regard to her being banned, how much of it is religious and how much of it is hurt pride on the part of men 🙂 . I’m sure I over-simplify the issue. It is a shame. I would have liked to see how far she could go. But, then again, we probably haven’t seen the end of the story. I hope this shapes up to be an even more inspiring story than it has been already.

  5. homeyra said, on December 2, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    Probably a little of both… but as you said, this is not the end of the story… thanks god there are always “wild cards” …! I will try to keep you updated 🙂

  6. Raya said, on May 15, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Homi jan , c’est vrai que je mets parfois un peu de temps àfaire les choses ! mais quand je m’y mets ce n’est pas mal, je t’infome donc de mes activités :
    j’ai fini mon mémoire personnel et je peux exercer depuis le mois de février comme psychothérapeute. Pour le moment je n’ai pas de client. sinon j’ai fais la rencontre d’une compatriote qui est spécialiste de l’insomnie en thérapie cognitive et comportementale TCC et nous avons créer ensemble des ateliers sur l’insomnie ( que tu peux aller consulter sur le site suivant : http://www.e-sommeil.com sous la rubrique Dernière news – GESTION DE L’INSOMNIE ; dis moi ce que tu en penses, peut être aussi que tu pourra nous envoyer des clients, le monde est petit tu sais.
    j’espère que tout va bien pour toi, tiens moi au courant
    Raya

  7. homeyra said, on May 15, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Hello Ray-banoo:)
    Congratulations!
    Farhad, mon ami psy est aussi specialise dans le sommeil, raison de plus de le rencontrer lors de ton prochain passage.
    Bonne chance pour la suite – et pour le moment un peu de publicite gratuit 🙂

  8. […] post: Laleh Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Jewel Gets Married After 10 Years of Dating Ty […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: