In the Middle East, eight women have banded together to race cars against men in a notoriously male-dominated society. They call themselves the Speed Sisters. They are pretty amazing.
The women you see here compete in an autocross series known as Speed Test. It began in Palestine's West Bank region in 2005, shortly after violence between Israel and the Palestineans began to taper off. Racing occurs in the territory that is governed by Israel; it takes place in parking lots and closed-off paved areas, and it resembles autocrossing in any other part of the world — cones are set up and drivers are allowed timed runs. With the exception of the landscape and the Arabic music blaring over loudspeakers, the competition could be mistaken for any one of countless club events in America or Europe.
There is one major difference: Here, it is not normal for women to compete.
The Middle East is and has long been a male-dominated region, but things are slowly changing. A woman was recently elected governor of the West Bank district of Ramallah. Four ministers in the Palestinian Cabinet are female, and the mayor of the West Bank's main city is a woman.
"The men found it strange, but they said 'let them come.' After a while we proved ourselves, and they were OK. We started asking them for tips like when to use the handbrake... I love driving. I love cars. It's in my blood — it's stronger than me. " — Suna Aweidah
The women you see here are part of an exploratory program paid for by the British Consulate in East Jerusalem. They share an old BMW 3-series, donated by the Palestinean Union for Race Car Drivers, and a handful of coaches. The youngest of the women is 18; the oldest is 39. The Consulate has invested the equivalent of almost $10,000 in their program, paying for helmets, car maintenance, and driver training. (The Union waived the $70 entry fee.) As far as we know, they are the only women currently competing in sanctioned motorsport in this region of the world.
"When I'm racing, I feel freedom. I love speed. When I'm on the track I can break the rules." —Suna Aweidah
Although at least one of the women has driven in competition before — Suna Awedia (top, center), the team's 39-year-old coach, has seat time in race karts — they aren't necessarily aiming for the podium. In the three rounds that have taken place this year, only one of the Sisters has reached the top ten. Two rounds are left. Awedia says her drivers need more training, more practice, and better cars — the men have largely been accepting and open to their presence, but they also have more refined (and often faster) equipment. The quotes and the videos below tell their story, along with their reason for competing, far better than we ever could.
"I love sports that are tough and dangerous, because I am a dangerous woman." —Nour Dawood
There is one word for this, and that word is awesome.
This subtitled video features the Sisters briefly discussing their sport and the autocross environment in their country:
"Look at us. We are really into it. We are one team. And we are all winners." —Nour Dawood
Photo Credits: British Foreign Office; Speed Sisters/Facebook; Ibrahim Hazboun/ FOXNews.com
Want to learn more? Videos, photos, and regular updates are available through the Speed Sisters' Facebook page.