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In Iran, Court Rules In Favor Of Female Motorcyclist, And It Gets Motors Running

Iranian female motorbike champion Behnaz Shafiei

An Iranian lawmaker has welcomed a court ruling stating that police should issue an unidentified woman in the central city of Isfahan a motorcycle license.

“Certainly, the ruling issued by the Court of Administrative Justice is based on existing laws and we all must abide by the law,“ Faride Oladghobad told the semiofficial ISNA news agency on August 5, while inviting the police to discuss the issue of women driving motorcycles with her female colleagues.

The Court of Administrative Justice handed down the ruling following a lawsuit by a female resident of Isfahan who had complained that traffic police had refused to issue her a motorcycle license, Iranian media reported on August 4.

“Driving for women, including light and heavy vehicles or motorcycles and other vehicles, has not been banned in any of the laws,“ the court said, adding that the police had 20 days to appeal the decision.

The ruling was issued on May 28, according to a copy posted online, but it only caught the public's attention after being released by local media on August 4. It was widely interpreted as a decision in favor of all women having the right to apply for a motorcycle license.

“From a legal point of view, this is a significant development. It can result in a coherent legal procedure, particularly because the basis of the lawsuit is right,“ lawyer Kaveh Rad said on Twitter.

Traffic police reacted to the ruling by suggesting that the decision was issued in favor of the plaintiff on an “individual basis” and did not extend to the broader public. The police added that an appeal will be launched and that final legal decisions will be enforced.

An increasing number of Iranian women have been driving motorbikes in recent years, despite opposition by hard-liners who favor social and political restrictions for women.

In 2017, Iranian media reported that two young women had been detained in Dezful in southwestern Iran after they were filmed riding a motorcycle.

Women have been allowed to practice on private circuits; in 2017, a female-only motorcycle track opened outside the capital, according to media reports.

A video posted on social media in July showed female motorbike champion Behnaz Shafiei arguing with a police officer who was telling her that as a woman she was not allowed to ride a motorcycle in public.

“In our Iran, women are not allowed to have [motorcycle] licenses, “ the policeman can be seen saying.

“I didn’t it get from Iran. I got in the U.S. It’s international,” she responds.

The policeman replied that “in our Iran, no woman has a license. Show me someone who does.”

Olaghobad said that one of her colleagues, Massoumeh Aghapour, had recently noted that women in her constituency of Shabestar in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province go to work on motorbikes and that it’s time to review the issue based on the needs of society.

“On this basis, we wrote a letter to the parliamentary representative for the police and asked for the presence of law enforcement experts in the [parliament’s] women's faction for an expert examination of the matter,” she said.

“We have to see if there is any prohibition in the traffic laws. And if there is a legal vacuum in this area, we in the parliament can fix it,” she added.

Iranian women face discrimination in many areas of life, including divorce and inheritance.

Many have been pushing back against discriminatory laws, including being forced to wear the hijab.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.