“The gas pedal makes me feel free.” Car racing may be a male-dominated sport, but women like Marah are leaving gender stereotypes in the dust.
Car racing may be a male-dominated sport, but women like Marah, 28, are changing that. At improvised racetracks around the West Bank, she is breaking records and stereotypes. Marah, along with four other women, formed the Speed Sisters, the Middle East’s first-ever female race car team.
Marah’s path to success wasn’t a smooth road.
“We faced problems when Marah first started racing,” her father Khaled says. “She was the only girl among 50 guys and my family was against it. I told them that I only care for developing my daughter’s skills and I asked them not to interfere.”
“He was really happy to find this talent in his daughter,” Marah says of her father. “He didn’t want to deprive me from what he was deprived from. I am really glad to have a father like mine.”
As a boy, Khaled grew up in a refugee camp, and it was his childhood dream to be a race car driver. He was never able to pursue it, so he went to great lengths to support Marah.
Despite her father’s support, she faced strong criticism. Some people stopped speaking to Marah and her family altogether.
“Because I love my people, I didn’t want to oppose them,” she says. “I tried to get closer to them and prove that by racing I have talent and ambition.”
And with every successful race or championship, she won more acceptance from her community. Living in the West Bank presented other barriers. Roadblocks, curfews and visa permit issues can make travel to practice, races or exhibitions difficult, but she says following her passion is liberating and encourages others to do the same.
“Heroes are those [who] look further than the political and social restrictions in our country and are those who stick to their dreams,” she says.
“Racing gives me the most important and needed feeling, which is freedom, it makes me feel powerful and able to do something,” Marah says.
Because of her dad’s strong will to support her, Marah says he is her hero. And she is his. Khaled calls Marah “Rebellious, fearless. She does whatever she wants. Marah is my hero forever.”