So there we were (thanks to a generous loan from Harley Davidson Berlin), riding bikes through the rain on the wet streets of Berlin. As I followed her lead, I kept thinking about how fortunate I’ve been to have had the freedom to be a licensed female rider for over 30 years in the United States. Meanwhile, this 32-year-old woman has spent the last 17 years fighting for the right to even be able to ride a motorcycle in her home country without persecution, both legally and socially.
Although the legalization of women riders in the U.S. began in 1937, for women in Iran, the freedom to obtain a motorcycle license or ride in public has been off limits since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Considered a threat to morality, an Iranian woman riding a motorcycle on the streets can currently get fined, have her bike seized, and even possibly be arrested — particularly if she removes her helmet without her head being covered properly with a hijab.
To that point, even before we started up our bikes, Behnaz needed to make a request that I only photograph her with her helmet or hijab on in order to respect these laws of her country, despite being in Germany. As has been so notably in the news lately, women over the age of nine are required to wear a veil over their head in Iran. So, right out of the gate, I was already struck with the harsh reality of the comparison between our lives as female riders and the restrictions and high stakes that came with her desire to be on two wheels.