The Speed Sisters: Women Bringing Palestine to the Racetrack

We so often hear about the firsts in every sport, but the Speed Sisters are little known to even us Palestine advocates. The Speed Sisters are the first all-women Palestinian automobile racing team of both Muslims and Christians, who formed in 2009 when the British Consulate in Jerusalem funded a race car for them. They compete in the professional car racing circuit in the West Bank and in regular races against their male counterparts, including the popular Speed Test.

The team captain is Suna Awaideh, who in 2005 was only woman to compete in the Speed Test. Five years later, eight women participate in the race. Awaideh’s focus is on getting more training, practice, and better cars, and to do that she searches for sponsors. Her dream is for the Speed Sisters to begin entering international races – and destroying even more stereotypes than just the ones they’ve been able to overcome in Palestine and Jordan.

A member of their team, Noor Daoud, is 23 years old and has been able to take her own individual career to the international level because she holds a U.S passport. Another one of the members, Maysoon Jayyusi, is the team manager and the Palestinian representative on the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission. She said, “It’s exciting for us, especially as women; we want to improve ourselves and show that we can achieve what we like. We want to challenge the ideas that women can only work in the kitchen and that Palestinian people can’t live normal lives.” She goes on to describe how her family had qualms at first, but accept it now because “they know we are strong.” Talk about dedication and empowerment.

The team also includes Betty Saadeh, Marah Zahalka, Munna Ennab, and Sahar Jawabrah, its first hijabi. Though they have all clearly shown strong resolve, their journey is not one without struggles. They don’t have a regular training ground or solid funding, and are forced to comply with travel restrictions that in many cases prevent them from competing. However, in 2011 they were invited to Silverstone (home of the British Grand Prix) for training, and continue to make breakthroughs.

Now a Canadian filmmaker named Amber Fares has been inspired by this incredible initiative and is making a feature-length documentary about the Speed Sisters. Check out the trailer here. It will be released in 2014.

There is much to be learned from the Speed Sisters, not least of which is that no matter the circumstances, women can defy the status quo and assert their strength. Especially important is the outlet they’ve chosen: sports, where Arab (particularly Palestinian) women are underrepresented. To top it all off, these are only their first few steps… and they’ve been grand ones at that, with a promise of much greater things to come. Make us proud, Speed Sisters.