News / Middle East

Palestinian Women with a Need for Speed

Members of the Speed Sisters
Members of the Speed Sisters



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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs