News / Middle East

Palestinian Women with a Need for Speed

Members of the Speed Sisters
Members of the Speed Sisters

Multimedia

Audio

A different kind of racing team is speeding into the world of motorsports in the West Bank.

Out of the BMW racing car steps the driver, wearing a yellow and black racing suit. With sunglasses and a helmet, no one would notice anything unusual, until the driver removes the helmet. With a curly ponytail and a grin from ear to ear, female racing team captain Suna Aweidah waves to the crowd of onlookers.

Aweidah is a part of a group of women known as the Speed Sisters. The eight-member, all-female Palestinian motorsports team is racing through gender barriers in the West Bank. For Suna Aweidah, the Speed Sisters are a dream come true and the highest point in her struggle to fulfill an ambition of becoming a racecar driver. But as she explains, not everyone in the West Bank was equally excited to see females on the male-dominated racing track.

"My family was not happy for me to start participating in this kind of sport, because it was: I will race individually and because it was unforeseen and not safe and mainly for men and all of this. So now I'm adding this team, this I think, will encourage more of the girls as a family to participate and join the team," she said.

The Speed Sisters, aged 18 to 39, are Muslims and Christians; from all walks of life. A former beauty pageant contestant, mothers, a librarian, a business student, and two drivers who were born into racing families have come together to form the Speed Sisters.  Aweidah says, while in the driver's seat of a racing car, there is no difference between men and women.

"This means, for us and for me, this means to prove that a woman can do what they want, whenever they want. And there is no sport that is especially for men or especially for women. I think that driving - many of the people think that driving is just for men. I don't think that. Driving is for women, for men, it's a sport. And we can compete with men in all kinds of sports," she said.

In June, the Speed Sisters became the first all-female racing team to compete in the Speed Test, a popular race in West Bank. The Speed Test takes place on a homemade track full of obstacles and twists and turns, through which contestants weave in and out at breath-taking speeds. Even though the Speed Sisters faced some mechanical problems, a team member finished in the top 10, a feat that no one expected them to accomplish.

Some of the success of the Speed Sisters comes from a relationship they developed with renowned British professional race driving instructor Helen Elstrop. She gave the Speed Sisters driving lessons.  They also got funding to buy a racecar from the British Consulate in Jerusalem.   Sue Sanders, a senior figure in British motorsports, mentored the Speed Sisters and knew right away they had what it took to overcome the gender barrier in the world of car racing.

"When Suna, particularly said to me, 'I really want to be best.' It was just an instant affinity. And it really didn't matter whether we had the same language or the same culture, but we actually had the same passion and the same desires to achieve things. So there was no gap. It didn't matter about anything else at all. That gap was completely eliminated," she said.

The Speed Sisters have adorned their racecar with the Palestinian flag and the British flag and say they are proud to join an international sisterhood of speed. Sanders and the rest of the British Women in Motorsports group understand the difficulties the Palestinian women face and are proud to help them, seeing no difference between themselves and the female racecar drivers far away in the West Bank.

"For the ladies in Palestine, having Helen and I there, they were able to see that, yes they have a lot of difficulties in their country and yes, they have so many more hurdles to overcome and they still have some of those prejudices they have to deal with. But actually, in our own way, even in the UK, we've had some of those things and yet we've still been able to get there. We've still been able to achieve the end results. They have kind spirits. There are a lot of miles between us, but actually not a lot of distance between us in mentality," Sanders said.

Suna Aweidah and her fellow Speed Sisters hope one day to represent the West Bank in competitions abroad.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs