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Seddigh, Laleh (1977–)

Seddigh, Laleh
(1977–)

Laleh Seddigh is arguably the best race car driver in Iran. She also became the first woman to compete against men in sports in Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Seddigh (also Seddiq) was born in February 1977 in Tehran, Iran, to an upper middle class family. She has a BA in industrial management, an MA in production engineering, and currently is studying for a Ph.D. in industrial management and production, all at Tehran University. She teaches at Tehran Azad University. When not driving, she enjoys horseback riding and target shooting among other pastimes.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Seddigh has always been inspired by her father. Her love of cars began when she started driving her father's car around the yard at eight. By eleven she could drive in the street, and she did so when her father was asleep and she could take his car keys. When Seddigh was eighteen she began seeking entrance into the Iranian Automobile Federation's car races. Not one to wait, she and a female navigator

entered three-day, non-Federation cross-country rallies—with Seddigh changing her own tires and fixing her vehicle. She became a member of the Proton Rally Team, competed in twenty-eight rallies by 2004, finished in the top three seven times, and won three times.

In 2004, the Iranian Automobile Federation finally allowed her to compete in circuit races against men—making her the first female to compete against males in Iranian sports since the 1979 revolution installed the Islamic Republic. Seddigh completed five races that season in a Peugeot 206 and both 1500cc and 1600cc Proton cars. By March 2005 she had become the Iranian national champion racer in the 1600cc engine-size category over a season of eight races. Iranian television refused to broadcast her standing on the victory platform, standing above the men that she beat. Although temporarily barred from further competition in 2006, Seddigh qualified for her International Racing Driving License during the BMW School Series at the Bahrain International Circuit in Manama that same year, allowing her to race internationally.

Seddigh insists on achieving what she sets out to do, regardless of the barriers erected against females in Iran. "I'm not a feminist, but why should women be lazy and weak? If you're determined, you've got to push. In this society, women are always like a poor people. They don't believe in themselves. They have to believe in their inside power" (Pohl).

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Seddigh has received a huge amount of coverage in the international press, especially for a sports figure from a non-Western country. She has been dubbed "The Little Schumacher," a reference to champion German formula one racer Michael Schumacher. As beautiful and glamorous as she is talented, Seddigh's beauty and image have garnered her much media coverage. She also is notable as a woman competing and winning in a male-dominated sport in a conservative, patriarchal Islamic society. A Hollywood film about her life is reportedly being made, and her story has been told in the leading French magazine, Paris Match.

LEGACY

Regardless of how the rest of her young career turns out, Laleh Seddigh already has gained fame in Iran by being the first woman allowed to compete in sports against men since the 1979 revolution. The fact that so few people around the world think of Iran and Iranians in the context of race car driving—let alone a champion female driver (a rarity in the West as well)—will guarantee her a place in Iranian sports history.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Antelava, Natalia. "Iran Salutes Female 'Schumacher,'" BBC News, March 14, 2005. Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4349341.stm.

Laleh Seddigh's website: http://www.lalehseddigh.net.

"Laleh Seddigh: The Persian Daredevil." Persian Mirror. Available from http://www.persianmirror.com/community/2006/sports/LalehSeddigh.cfm.

Pohl, Otto. "On This Race-Car Driver's Track, a New Iran." New York Times, May 14, 2005. Available from http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/05/13/news/profile.php.

Tait, Robert. "Iran's Speed Queen." Observer, March 4, 2007. Available from http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,2023234,00.html.

                                       Michael R. Fischbach

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Laleh Seddigh

Birth: 1977, Tehran, Iran

Family: Single

Nationality: Iranian

Education: BA (industrial management), MA (production engineering), Tehran University; studying for Ph.D. (industrial management and production), Tehran University

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 2000: Starts racing career
  • 2004: Allowed to compete with male racers by Iran's Automobile Federation
  • 2005: Iranian national champion racer in the 1600cc engine-size category
  • 2006: Earns her International Racing Driving License

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