These ‘Speed Sisters’ Are Racing Past Cultural, Gender, And Religious Barriers In The Middle East

The need for speed is in their blood.

Noor, Betty, Mahar, and Mona are speeding down a path never before traveled by a group of women in the Middle East. With the help of their team captain, Maysoon, the first all-woman race car driving team in the region isn't braking for any cultural, gender, or religious barriers. 

Despite winning numerous races and trophies, the ladies at the center of the award-winning documentary Speed Sisters are still considered "girls" in a sport they're slowly changing, one competition at a time.

The five fearless women involved in the men's world of motor racing in Palestine, with the Israeli occupation in the near distance, find it difficult to locate space to practice and train. Although they eventually find a location, its close proximity to a military checkpoint makes each practice a life-and-death situation.



Left to right: Mahar, Noor, Maysoon, Betty, and Mona. Courtesy of Speed Sisters. 
Left to right: Mahar, Noor, Maysoon, Betty, and Mona. Courtesy of Speed Sisters. 

Off the track, the women are shunned by some family members who believe the place of a woman should be nowhere near a male-dominated competitive sport, let allow behind the wheel of a race car. While each of the four women have gained notoriety in their own right as drivers, some kin wishes they would have chosen more "respectable" professions such as doctors or lawyers that wouldn't shame their family name. "I wouldn't have let her do it," one of the elders in Noor's family tells her father.

Finding a balance between pursuing their car racing dreams and following more traditional pursuits like marriage and motherhood has also proven difficult for the women, especially for Mona. If her new husband doesn't want her to race, she's left with a difficult decision to make. Or is she?

"What if he tells you he doesn't want you to race?" Maysoon asks her.

"Put yourself in my shoes," she answered. "If you had to choose between him and racing, I don't think you would choose racing."

Courtesy of Speed Sisters. 
Courtesy of Speed Sisters. 

But racing was their choice, whether due to having a family history with the sport or simply because of a natural love for speed and winning.

"We're teammates and we compete against the guys," one explained. "At the same time, we compete for the title of the fastest woman."

That title creates tension among the women, and even though Mahar has won the most races and is hailed by many as being the best on the team, Betty isn't willing to sit on the sidelines quietly. The blond bombshell, who puts the pedal to the metal better than most male competitors, is in high demand with the media and fans, and she unapologetically knows it.  

"I give the Racing Federation a good image," Betty said in the film. "'Betty Saadeh' — I'm a brand."

Courtesy of Speed Sisters.

Whether as a race car driver or a filmmaker, the women of Speed Sisters are taking the wheel.

Behind the scenes, a duo of women of color worked to tell this story: together, Canadian-Lebanese director Amber Fares and award-winning Palestinian editor Rabab Haj Yahya crafted the film. Additionally, Brooklyn-based producer Jessica Devaney assisted in the finishing touches. 

Speed Sisters is in U.S. theaters and on iTunes now. For more information go to www.speedsisters.tv.  

Watch the "Speed Sisters" trailer for more high-octane fun:

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